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Sense and Senility
Sense and Senility
Title card, illustrating the theatrical theme of the episode.
Episode 4
Written by Ben Elton & Richard Curtis
Directed by Mandie Fletcher
Guest stars Hugh Paddick, Kenneth Connor
Original airdate 8 October 1987
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"Nob and Nobility" "Amy and Amiability"
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"Sense and Senility" is the fourth episode of the Blackadder the Third series of the BBC sitcom Blackadder.


The episode opens with Blackadder ruefully preparing to attend the theatre with Prince George, who Blackadder says has no grasp of the concept of fiction; for example, at a performance of Julius Caesar, the Prince shouted, "Look behind you, Mr. Caesar!" during the assassination scene. At the play, an anarchist (played by Ben Elton) makes an attempt on George's life. The Prince is shocked by Blackadder's revelation that he is unpopular and ignorant of the living conditions of the working classes: "Disease and Deprivation stalk our land like two giant stalking things." Following this event, Prince George becomes increasingly paranoid about anarchist attacks. Whenever the Prince encounters Baldrick cleaning, he accuses Baldrick of being an anarchist and attempts to strangle him, forcing Blackadder to intervene and stop the Prince.

Blackadder suggests that the Prince should improve his public image by writing a speech for the Prince to deliver at his father's birthday celebrations. The Prince then suggests that the two actors that they saw at the theatre (Keanrick and Mossop, played by Hugh Paddick and Kenneth Connor) be hired to give him elocution lessons. Blackadder has little respect for actors in the first place, often ridiculing them for their over-the-top, flamboyant acting style, and saying, "You mean they actually rehearse? I thought they just got drunk, stuck on silly hats and trusted their luck." Aware of their superstitions involving the cursed name of Macbeth, Blackadder torments the actors by having them repeatedly perform the painful Macbeth ritual (which comically consists of them playing pattycake and chanting "Hot potato, off his drawers, puck will make amends!" before squeezing each other's nose, causing both men to wince in pain). He says "Macbeth" four times in a row. Soon, he takes an extra dislike to the pair when they laugh at the speech he wrote, calling it "drivel," and the Prince once more insults him, prompting him to storm back to the kitchen to be met with Baldrick asking if he should prepare dinner. After recommending "something that has first passed through the digestive system of the cat", Blackadder decides to take up one of Napoleon's job opportunities and become King of Sardinia. Blackadder packs up his things and prepares to leave, he sarcastically says how he will miss Baldrick's "honest and friendly companionship" he then proceeds say "but as we both know, it will be an utter lie" Blackadder insults Baldrick and that chances of Blackadder meeting Baldrick again will be "20 billion years too soon" However, he is distracted when, on the way out, Baldrick, surprisingly, insults him back, saying "Goodbye, you lazy, big nosed, rubber-faced bastard." Uncharacteristically, he does not touch Baldrick, but instead scathingly tells him "I wouldn't bet you a single groat that you could last five minutes here without me." remarking that "hope springs eternal" when Baldrick retorts that they are unlikely to all be murdered the moment he leaves.

Soon after that, the actors rehearse their own play, "The Bloody Murder of the Foul Prince Romero and His Enormously Bosomed Wife," which consists mostly of long and very gory Shakespearean-style dialogue. Baldrick overhears them and thinks it's a real plot to murder Prince George and his servant. As he and the Prince are cowering in the sitting room, Blackadder returns, revealing that he had actually decided to take Baldrick up on his bet, saying "Four minutes, twenty-two seconds, Baldrick. You owe me a groat." He then takes advantage of George's inability to tell fact from fiction and accuses the actors of conspiracy, claiming that "The Murder of Prince Romero" is in fact their entire conspiracy printed and published in play manuscript form. They are led off by the guards as Edmund adds insult to injury by again invoking the dreaded Scottish curse.

At the end of the episode, Blackadder offers a lead role in a new play. The prince agrees, but asks for the title. Blackadder replies, "Thick Jack Clot Sits in the Stocks and Gets Pelted with Rancid Tomatoes". The credits roll after George says, "Excellent!".

Historical and cultural references[]

  • The theatre superstition, in which saying the title of the Scottish play (Macbeth) in a theatre brings bad luck, appears in this episode when Blackadder informs Baldrick about its unlucky qualities and that he "won't be mentioning it. Well, not very often."
    • Ironically, despite Keanrick and Mossop depicted as overtly superstitious, the episode ends with the pair being arrest and executed, so perhaps they weren't so superstitious.
  • Keanrick and Mossop's superstitious dance contains the following quickly-spoken recital: "Hot potato, orchestra stalls, Puck will make amends." After this quotation, it is necessary to pinch the nose of your partner, which is shown to be more and more painful with each instance. "Puck" is a reference to A Midsummer Night's Dream, another of William Shakespeare's plays. The orchestra stalls is a reference to Thomas Becket who was murdered in a churches choir loft, A.K.A orchestra stalls. (NB: Thomas Beckett was not murdered in a choir loft - nor in a church. Nor is a choir loft - upstairs - referred to as stalls, which are downstairs, where the orchestra sits. Beckett was murdered by the main altar in Canterbury Cathedral. Orchestra stalls is British rhyming slang for balls) .
  • The title of the episode is a reference to the novel Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Another reference to Jane Austen is made in "Ink and Incapability", where Blackadder claims that Jane Austen is a "huge Yorkshireman with a beard like a rhododendron bush".


  • Ben Elton who has a cameo in this episode as the anarchist who tries to kill Prince George is a writer who along with Richard Curtis wrote episodes for Blackadder II, Blackadder the Third and Blackadder Goes Forth.
  • The scene where Prince George calls Blackadder "Bladder" was an ad lib Hugh Laurie (Prince George) did, Laurie having fumbled the previous line.
  • The script for the episode reveals that Keanrick and Mosop were doing a violent and stupid supernatural routine of some kind. During filming for the episode, Hugh Paddick (Keanrick) and Kenneth Connor (Mosop) came up with the routine that sees them performing the ritual to banish evil whenever Blackadder says "Macbeth".