If you've ever had the joy of watching Matilda, then you surely remember the famous cake scene! In it, the malicious Miss Trunchbull forces one of her students, Bruce Bogtrotter, to eat an enormous chocolate cake all by himself. Most of us likely shrugged this off as being one of her many cruel punishments - in this case, an effort to humiliate Bruce for sneaking into the school's kitchen, stealing and consuming her cake. But I think its significance is much more than just that!
Need a refresher? Check out the cast reenacting the scene 17 years later!
We all know that Miss Trunchbull is far worse than anyone would imagine. She went as low to murder her own brother-in-law just to ensure that she inherited his beautiful estate and everything in it! She's killed once, so who's to say that she wouldn't do it again? Especially children - whom she hates with a passion.
How is Bruce eating cake lethal, you may ask?
Aside from consuming that much chocolate cake being extremely unhealthy, it could potentially tie into a judicial practice that once took place in England. Dating as far back to 1000 AD, there was a trial by ordeal called 'corsned', also known as the 'morsel of execration'. It consisted of a suspected person eating a piece of bread and cheese that was consecrated with a form of exorcism as a trial of their innocence.
It was believed that the morsel would cause convulsions, paleness, and choking to those who were guilty. If innocent, the person could swallow it freely. If you'll remember, Matilda said "He's going to choke." and Lavender asked if he was going to puke. It wasn't until the classmates started cheering him on that he was able to top off the remaining feast.
The historical ties don't stop at the cake scene!
By now I'm sure you're thinking it's a big stretch, and I'd be inclined to agree with you! But when you take Miss Trunchbull's other methods of punishment into consideration, it really doesn't seem that far fetched. Remember the Chokey? It highly resembles one of the most well-known torture devices, the iron maiden, which is believed to be dated as far back as 1515 AD.
The iron maiden is a device in which the accused is forced into a sarcophagus with nails or spikes driven inside of it. These spikes would be strategically placed so that if you moved ever so slightly, they would penetrate your body, causing you to slowly bleed out. Not a way I'd want to go!
In closing, if Bruce's "trial" was indeed inspired by corsned, this means that Miss Trunchbull is far worse than any of us had ever imagined. Let us all take a moment to be thankful that our school principles were never as evil as her!