User:Jahsonic/AHE/The Middle Ages/Bawdy, farcical and ribald
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
We may assume that Boccaccio and Chaucer were avid readers and eager listeners, constantly on the look-out for stories to fill their collections. They obviously have an almost unstoppable source, since medieval oral culture is very rich in what are now generally known as fabliaux, a genre in which all that is bawdy, farcical and ribald is featured. This literary production is also called the 'joyful wisdom' or 'gay science' by the minstrels, troubadours and jugglers who considered it their philosophy. They roamed medieval Europe in the name of courtly love, but also tried to seduce the wife of a knight, with a bawdy jest.
All these bawdy and ribald farces have been largely ignored by history, as often happens when historians disapprove of something. History books feature what we like to remember, not what we want to forget. If it is the victor who writes history, he does not use a frank tongue. The chronicler of service is apparently always more prudish than his corpus. The scabrousness of medieval literature is all too often and too eagerly covered up with the cloak of love, courtly love. But rest assured: courtly love is not always courtly and under the tenuous fabric that covers it, we find lust and debauchery. Was medieval love courtly and refined or obscene and course? Both. As Johan Huizinga, author of the authoritative The Autumn of the Middle Ages (1919) puts it:
- "Reality at all times has been worse and more brutal than the refined aestheticism of courtesy would have it be, but also more chaste than it is represented to be by the vulgar genre which is wrongly regarded as realism." tr. Frederik Jan Hopman (1877-1932)
'Realism,' Huizinga calls it, but 'coarse eroticism' is not lacking in these stories. Realistic, coarse erotic stories about long penises, talking cunts, rings as chastity belts, children of snow and a wicked seducer who lets a small wheel do the work for him.