Chaucerian Play: Comedy and Control in The Canterbury Tales by Laura Kendrick

By Laura Kendrick

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Laughter is a metalinguistic sign, a framing "no" that reverses the meaning of all the signs within its bounds. In its assertion "this is not real," laughter is related to play of all sorts, including literary play or fiction, which denies everyday reality in order to replace it with a deliberately distorting mimesis. As Baudelaire observed, laughter is contradictory, acknowledging weakness by its very assertion of strength. Nevertheless, from a hard-line Christian ascetic viewpoint, laughter was worse than indecorous; it was subversive, egotistical, foolish.

17 The transparency of this veil coversor discoversthe Child's private parts in an "expository" way (Fig. 9). In such paintings, the Christ Child no longer needs to hold a scroll symbolizing the Old Testament in his hand to remind us that he is the incarnate Word, that the text of his flesh is the key to understanding God's intentions. The transparent veil reveals the nude body behind it or falls away to discover God's pryvetee in a material, physical representation of the abstract sense of St.

6 Such early readers, like many today, took Chaucer at his final word: "For oure book [the Bible] seith, 'Al that is writen is writen for oure doctrine,' and that is myn entente" (I 1083). Such reading for profit gives us the image of a serious Chaucer: an historical realist and sage dogmatist, a writer who used words to represent things, to describe vividly fourteenth-century life, to capture particular and eternal qualities of human character, to create fables containing moral truths or Christian, doctrinal lessons for the reader to discover and apply to his own life.

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