Space in a fabliau is delimited, known, often domestic. In this regard as in so many others it is the antithesis of the romance space through which Launcelot moves in the tale that bears his name. Here space is apparently inchoate and unbounded, and the movement of the hero seemingly without pattern until he stumbles upon aventure. At that point, like someone engaged in a treasure hunt, he may begin to move through this space very differently, following a given assignment to a highly specific goal: an abbey of white monks, Terquyne's tree, the Chapel Perelus. But these directives do not change the nature of the geography, they simply give him a temporary path between two points. Looking back, we are aware that the space he traversed was fraught with significance.
Fabliau, by contrast, involves moving human beings into and out of familiar, designated, bound spaces, typically a bedchamber or kitchen and the furniture which goes with it. The quarters are cramped: there is a palpable sense that there is not enough space – certainly not enough beds – to go round. A central motif is the human body in a grotesque or ridiculous posture. The action of a fabliau may demand this position in order for someone to save himself from detection: creeping into a tub, for instance, or crouching in a window box. Alternatively, as in the case of May and Damien in Chaucer's ‘Merchant's Tale’, characters are caught in compromising positions and must quickly furnish a plausible explanation.
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