Richard the Redeless and Mum and the Sothsegger (Paperback)
This volume makes available two somewhat neglected yet significant and instructive Middle English alliterative texts that are usually read in conjunction with William Langland’s Piers Plowman. The texts, both anonymous, are Richard the Redeless, which concerns the government style of Richard II (1367–1400; reigned 1377–99), and Mum and the Sothsegger, which addresses social issues in the reign of Henry IV (1367–1413; reigned 1399–1413). They should be assigned reading not only for those interested in the later reception of Piers Plowman but also for those seeking to understand literary and historical forces in late fourteenth- and early fifteenth-century England. Richard the Redeless (focusing on events in and around 1399) offers an often regretful, sometimes sharp critique of Richard’s kingship under the guise of advice; Mum and the Sothsegger provides a satirical look at bureaucratic institutions during Henry’s regime. Both works reveal that alliterative poetry in the Piers Plowman tradition continued to be the chief vehicle for political and social criticism at the turn of the fourteenth century.