By Laura Kendrick
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Additional resources for Chaucerian Play: Comedy and Control in The Canterbury Tales
A Lombard illumination from about 1390, for example, presents a kneeling old king kissing the Child's foot while gazing intently at the nude infant's private parts (Fig. 11). Bohemian paintings and manuscript illuminations of the 1360s and 1370s, while depicting a nude Christ Child, still use his foot (symbolic of the phallus, a kind of displaced penis, even in earlier Byzantine models) as the focal point of the picture: in a Madonna and Child painted before 1371, Christ's bare, upturned foot overlays Mary's own clothed pryvetee (Fig.
Huizinga's clean translation is a fig leaf. Different scholars have handled their discomfiture at late medieval mixtures of the spirit and the flesh, the sacred and the profane, in different ways. Specifically with respect to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, few scholars have silently "turned over the leaf" and averted their attention from temptation. This would be a true censorship, a total suppression or deletion of the offensive material. Most scholars have practiced, instead, some form of denial, a deliberately ineffective censorship (or censureship) that preserves in mind the very material it rejects.
1 Surely Chaucer could not have intended that such a blasphemous innuendo raise its ugly head? Or could he? Page 6 What of the gigantically grotesque sign that hangs suspended over much of the action of the "Miller's Tale": two round containers and an oblong one, each big enough to hold a person, the "knedyng trogh," "tub," and "kymelyn'' (A 362021) that the foolish carpenter hangs from the rafters of his house "in pryvetee" (3623)? 2 If the oblong trough were hung parallel to the ground, which it would have to be to serve as a boat, what would this trinity of containers look like from underneath?