Blackadder on the Causes of the First World War



The following famous scene from Blackadder Goes Forth: Goodbyee deals with the causes of the war.     

The humour is quite subtle, and you need to know about the Causes of World War One to fully appreciate why it is so funny.


In the episode, Blackadder is feigning madness to try to avoid going over the top.   While they are waiting, Baldrick asks permission to ask a question...




The Causes of WWI


Baldrick:  The thing is: The way I see it, these days there's a war on, right? and, ages ago, there wasn't a war on, right?    So, there must have been a moment when there not being a war on went away, right? and there being a war on came along.   So, what I want to know is: How did we get from the one case of affairs to the other case of affairs?


Edmund:   Do you mean "Why did the war start?"

Baldrick:   Yeah.

George:   The war started because of the vile Hun and his villainous empire-building.

Edmund:  George, the British Empire at present covers a quarter of the globe, while the German Empire consists of a small sausage factory in Tanganyika.    I hardly think that we can be entirely absolved of blame on the imperialistic front.

George:   Oh, no, sir, absolutely not. [aside, to Baldick]   Mad as a bicycle!

Baldrick:  I heard that it started when a bloke called Archie Duke shot an ostrich 'cause he was hungry.

Edmund:  I think you mean it started when the Archduke of Austro-Hungary got shot.

Baldrick:  Nah, there was definitely an ostrich involved, sir.

Edmund:  Well, possibly.   But the real reason for the whole thing was that it was too much effort not to have a war.

George:   By Golly, this is interesting; I always loved history...

Edmund:  You see, Baldrick, in order to prevent war in Europe, two superblocs developed: us, the French and the Russians on one side, and the Germans and Austro-Hungary on the other.   The idea was to have two vast opposing armies, each acting as the other's deterrent.   That way there could never be a war.

Baldrick:  But this is a sort of a war, isn't it, sir?

Edmund:  Yes, that's right.   You see, there was a tiny flaw in the plan.

George:   What was that, sir?

Edmund:  It was bollocks.

Baldrick:  So the poor old ostrich died for nothing.


Explain the humour

of this scene - especially:

'the vile Hun and his empire building ... the imperialistic front',

'Archie Duke shot an ostrich cause he was hungry',

'two superblocs ... two vast opposing armies .. deterrent'.