Innuendo And Double Entendre In Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales

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Some of the earliest double entendres are found in the Exeter Book, or Codex exoniensis, at Exeter Cathedral in England. The book was copied around 975 AD. In addition to the various poems and stories found in the book, there are also numerous riddles. The Anglo-Saxons did not reveal the answers to the riddles, but they have been answered by scholars over the years. Some riddles were double-entendres, such as Riddle 25 ("I am a wondrous creature: to women a thing of joyful expectation, to close-lying companions serviceable. I harm no city-dweller excepting my slayer alone. My stem is erect and tall––I stand up in bed––and whiskery somewhere down below. Sometimes a countryman's quite comely daughter will venture, bumptious girl, to get a grip on me. She assaults my red self and seizes my head and clenches me in a cramped place. She will soon feel the effect of her encounter with me, this curl-locked woman who squeezes me. Her eye will be wet.") which suggests the answer "a penis" but has the correct answer "an onion".[5]

Examples of sexual innuendo and double-entendre occur in Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales (14th century), in which the Wife of Bath's Tale is laden with double entendres. The most
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Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night says of Sir Andrew's hair, that "it hangs like flax on a distaff; and I hope to see a housewife take thee between her legs and spin it off;" the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet says that her husband had told Juliet when she was learning to walk that "Yea, dost thou fall upon thy face? Thou wilt fall backward when thou hast more wit;", or is told the time by Mercutio: "for the bawdy hand of the dial is now upon the prick of noon"; and in Hamlet, Hamlet publicly torments Ophelia with a series of sexual puns, including "country matters" (similar to "cunt"). The title of Shakespeare's play Much Ado About Nothing is a pun on the Elizabethan use of "no-thing" as slang for

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