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Richard the Redeless: Introduction


1 "The Idea of Public Poetry in the Reign of Richard II," Speculum 53 (1978), 94-114.

2 For a brief survey of the details of this momentous event in British history, see "Literature of Richard II's Reign and the Peasants' Revolt," in Medieval English Political Writings, ed. Dean, pp. 119-22. For extended treatment of the documents, see The Peasants' Revolt of 1381, ed. R. B. Dobson, second ed. (London: Macmillan, 1983).

3 Derek Pearsall, in The Life of Geoffrey Chaucer (Oxford: Blackwell, 1992), calls Gloucester, youngest son of Edward III, an "explosion waiting to happen" because he was so frequently ignored or passed over for honors, including the Order of the Garter. Pearsall characterizes Gloucester as "an irascible man at the best of times and a great nurser of grievances" (p. 199).

4 Henry Knighton, Knighton's Chronicle, 1337-1396, p. 392. Knighton's phrase is "quinque nephandi seductores regis."

5 D. W. Robertson, Jr., Chaucer's London, p. 165. For an extended treatment of the events involving the appellants, see Nigel Saul, Richard II (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), pp. 185-96.

6 See Passus III, lines 26-29 and notes to those lines and There Is a Busch That Is Forgrowe, in Medieval English Political Writings, pp. 150-51, lines 13, 20, and 25, and notes to those lines.

7 See Medieval English Political Writings, pp. 140-52.

8 See Piers the Plowman's Crede, lines 744-59 and note to lines 748-49, in Six Ecclesiastical Satires, ed. Dean, pp. 30-31, 47-48.

9 See The Parson's Tale on both "superfluitee of clothynge" and "horrible disordinat scantnesse of clothyng" in The Canterbury Tales (in The Riverside Chaucer, ed. Larry D. Benson et al. [Boston: Houghton Mifflin, Co., 1987]), X [I] 416-29. See also Huff! A Galaunt and The Pride of Women's Horns in Historical Poems of the XIV and XV Century, ed. R. H. Robbins (New York: Columbia University Press, 1959), pp. 138-39; and Satirical Songs and Poems on Costume from the 13th to the 19th Century, ed. F. W. Fairholt (London: Percy Society, 1849). For critical discussions, see Scattergood, "Fashion and Morality in the Late Middle Ages," and Davenport, "Lusty fresche galaunts." For brief summaries and bibliography (to about 1975), see R. H. Robbins, "Poems on Contemporary Conditions," §§159-63, in A Manual of the Writings in Middle English, ed. Hartung, pp. 1469-70, 1686-87.

10 In private correspondence of 3 August 1999. Her dating of the script coincides with the appraisal of Ian Doyle, "The Manuscripts," in Middle English Alliterative Poetry and Its Literary Background: Seven Essays, ed. David Lawton (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1982), p. 98.

11 M. B. Parkes, English Cursive Book Hands 1250-1500 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1969), Introduction, pp. xiv-xxi.
In the troubled historical moment after Henry of Lancaster's deposition of Richard II, an unknown poet offered Richard retrospective - perhaps even posthumous - advice, composing, at the same time, a mirror for princes. This work has come to be known as Richard the Redeless - "Richard without Counsel" - because, as the work contends, Richard has been poorly advised, his kingdom mismanaged, his loyal subjects ill-served. Richard's epithet in this work seems to invoke another ill-advised king, Ethelred II, who was characterized after his death as "unræd" (mistranslated as "the Unready"). The author expects that the advice he provides in his poetic treatise will help guide the kingdom in future years. If a Christian king were to pay close attention to his advice, he declares, "Ther nys no governour on the grounde ne sholde gye [govern] him the better" (Prol.42). He wants to counsel "my kyng and the lordis" (Prol.49). Therefore he endeavors, with all his faculties, "To traveile on this tretis, to teche men therafter / To be war of wylffulnesse, lest wondris arise" (Prol.51-52). He strives for the "public voice" that Anne Middleton1 has identified as distinctive of Ricardian literature.

Richard the Redeless offers an important witness to political events and their meanings in late fourteenth- and early fifteenth-century England. The poem centers on the year 1399, when Richard was in Ireland fighting the "wilde Yrisshe" (Prol.10) while Henry of Hereford (surnamed Bolingbroke), first son of John of Gaunt, had just returned from banishment in Paris, dispossessed of his Lancastrian inheritance by an increasingly imperious King Richard after Gaunt's death on 3 February. The point of departure for the poem occurs when the narrator arrives at Christ Church in Bristol - such is the fiction - and overhears political arguments for and against both King Richard and Henry. The poet also ranges back to previous political events, such as the Appellants' challenge to Richard at Radcot Bridge (1387), the Merciless Parliament of 1388, and the Shrewsbury Parliament of 1398, when Richard banished Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, for life and Henry Bolingbroke for ten years.

The premise of Richard the Redeless is that the king was thrust into office at too early an age for himself and for the kingdom: "Ye come to youre kyngdom er ye youreself knewe" (I.32). Richard was only eleven when King Edward III, his grandfather, died in 1377. Richard's father, the Black Prince, who would have inherited the kingship, died a year before his father, with the result that Richard was elevated before he or anybody was prepared for the event. Richard's uncle, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, fourth son of Edward, served as regent of England until Richard declared himself ready to govern in his own right (1389). In hindsight it is not difficult to see that Richard managed his kingdom poorly, especially in the final years of his realm, after the death of Gaunt. His reign fostered fear, mistrust, and anger; and his contemporaries judged his kingship far more in light of the deposed King Edward II than his much-revered son, Edward III.

The story of Richard's kingship largely concerns issues and quarrels within his family. The first crisis of Richard's reign was the Great Rising of 1381, which the king helped to calm.2 The second crisis occurred in 1387-88, shortly after John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, departed England to pursue opportunities in Spain. The Duke of Gloucester (younger brother of Lancaster), Richard, Earl of Arundel, and Thomas, Earl of Warwick - core of the group known as the Appellants - presented grievances to parliament concerning the king's favorites, especially the despised Robert de Vere, Earl of Oxford, whom the king had recently elevated, first, to the rank of marquis of Dublin and then to Duke of Ireland.3 De Vere scandalized the court by divorcing his royal wife - Richard's cousin - for a Bohemian lady-in-waiting of the queen's court. The general sentiment held that this nouveau duke and his friends exercised far too much influence on the young king. Among the king's several miscues in this episode was his declaration that he would seek aid from the French king, a statement which alarmed Gloucester and others. The Appellants were further roused when Richard ordered Londoners not to have business dealings with Arundel. On 14 November 1387, at Waltham Cross, where many had rallied in their support, the Appellants offered a formal accusation against five of Richard's friends and trusted advisors: Sir Michael de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk (erstwhile chancellor), Robert de Vere, Sir Robert Tresilian (chief justice of the King's Bench), Sir Nicholas Brembre (formerly mayor of London), and Alexander Neville, (Archbishop of York). The chronicler Henry Knighton calls these "the five evil seducers of the king."4 At the invitation of mediators, they took their case to parliament, at Westminster Hall, where the king seemed to reach an accord with the Appellants for disposition of their impeachments in February of the new year. But the king failed to arrest the accused, who slipped away (some in disguise), with the exception of Brembre. De Vere fled to Chester and returned with forces, but the Appellants, now joined by Henry Bolingbroke, learned of his plans and blocked his route to London, trapping him at Radcot Bridge, Oxfordshire. He displayed the royal banner but was caught between the forces of Bolingbroke and Gloucester. Although de Vere managed to escape, the royalist forces were routed, forcing Richard to seek safety in the Tower. "The country was, in effect, in a state of insurrection."5 The appellants arranged a parlay with the king in the Tower and apparently uttered strong words to him about his conduct, while the king threw himself on their mercy and asked only that his royal dignity be preserved. At the February parliament the five appellants - Gloucester, Derby, Nottingham, Arundel, and Warwick - charged Richard's ministers with "accroaching" royal prerogatives, demanding that the accused appear to answer the indictments against them; but this they failed to do. The lords temporal pondered thirty-nine articles against the accused and pronounced the four absentee lords guilty of treason and subject to full penalties of the law (the archbishop, however, subject to papal judgment). After some political maneuvering, including a cascade of gloves thrown at Richard's feet by the Appellants and others when he defended Brembre, the lords found Brembre guilty of treason, and he was condemned on 20 February. When Tresilian was discovered in hiding in Westminster, he was executed at Tyburn; Brembre was similarly dispatched the next day. Others also lost their heads as a result of this parliament, which has come to be known as the Merciless Parliament (sine misericordia). Despite Richard and the queen's intercession, Sir Simon Burley, formerly the king's tutor, was executed along with three other chamber knights.

The final crisis of Richard's reign occurred in the years 1397-1400, when Richard settled old scores with the Appellants, became increasingly autocratic and tyrannical, and lost his throne and then his life in the Lancastrian revolution. The extended crisis might be said to begin when Thomas Mowbray, Earl of Nottingham, one of the original Appellants, reported to the king that the Appellants had met and devised plots against him at Arundel Castle. There the Appellants, by report, agreed to make common cause against the king and the Duke of Lancaster. When he learned of this, Richard ordered the arrest of Arundel and Warwick, imprisoning them in the Tower. The king himself went to Pleshey in Essex to secure Gloucester (the "Swan" in Richard the Redeless' beast allegory),6 who, when he begged for clemency, was told he would receive just the same mercy he had shown to Simon Burley at the Merciless Parliament; and though his uncle was ill, Richard sent him to Calais where he died under suspicious circumstances in Nottingham's custody. Richard held his last parliament in London at Westminster Hall in September of 1397, with his Cheshire archers allegedly in attendance, armed and badged. Richard had formed his own band of appellants, who impeached the Earl of Arundel, Richard Fitzalan (the "Horse"). Arundel was denied a trial by combat and, on orders of John of Gaunt, executed on Tower Hill. Warwick (the "Bear") confessed to treason and was sentenced to perpetual exile on the Isle of Man. At the Shrewsbury Parliament (1398), Henry Bolingbroke, now Duke of Hereford, accused Mowbray (now Norfolk) of informing him that Richard intended to do away with both of them. Norfolk denied this and a judicial duel was arranged for 16 September at Coventry, but Richard halted the duel at the last minute and banished Norfolk for life and Bolingbroke for ten years (later commuted to six). John of Gaunt, who had managed the kingdom during Richard's minority, died in February of 1399, leaving Richard to his own counsel. Richard in quick order demanded "blank charters" of lords (in effect, blank checks) and seized the duchy of Lancaster, thereby depriving Henry Bolingbroke, in exile in France, of his inheritance while at the same time altering Bolingbroke's sentence to banishment for life. These measures alarmed the temporal lords as they became aware that their property and inheritances were no longer secure. Meanwhile Richard took this opportunity to sail to Ireland for a second expedition. While he was there Henry Bolingbroke decided to return to England to look after his interests, landing at Ravenspur in Yorkshire. He made his way across country to Pontefract, his ancestral seat, and then quickly to Bristol, which is when and where Richard the Redeless begins. When the king returned to England from Ireland, events rapidly overtook him: Hereford arrived in Chester before Richard and his troops; the Duke of Aumale (the Duke of York's son) and Thomas Percy, Earl of Worcester, deserted Richard for Henry; Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, and Thomas Arundel trapped Richard in Conway castle in North Wales, offering him terms from Bolingbroke; Richard departed Conway only to fall into a trap and was conveyed to Flint Castle as a prisoner and then transferred to the Tower in London; documents were composed stating that Richard voluntarily resigned his crown and that he wished his heir to be Henry of Lancaster; Henry assumed the throne as Henry IV, his accession backdated to 30 September 1399 in the Rolls of Parliament.

While these historical particulars are important for understanding the milieu of Richard the Redeless, the poem is not a verse chronicle but a critique of Richard's kingship and his court. The narrator, who terms his poem a "writte" (Prol.31) or a "tretis" (Prol.51), is very explicit about blaming - and identifying - Richard as the source of problems. In the line that includes the poem's modern title, he accuses Richard of "lawlessly" conducting his life - not just of being poorly advised - and of governing his people with equal disregard for law and custom (I.2). At the beginning of Passus I the narrator assembles the accusations against Richard: greed and waste have ruined his kingship (I.3-8); fiscal deceit, treachery, and theft have impoverished the realm, along with heavy taxation in peacetime, all for the extravagance and waste of Richard's court (lines 11-18). The narrator skillfully distinguishes between a specific monarch, Richard, and his kingship, symbolized by the royal crown with its virtuous gems. He depicts Richard's court as corrupt and self-indulgent, pillaging from common people, including farmers, and lavish in its amusements. Other authors of this time wrote satires about the English court - for example, the anonymous composer of On the Times ("Syng I wolde, butt, alas!"), Tax Has Tenet Us Alle, or There Is a Busch That Is Forgrowe (On King Richard's Ministers);7 but perhaps no Ricardian writer, not even John Gower, was so critical of Richard himself as was the author of Richard the Redeless. Others emphasize how evil ministers have misled the king rather than how the king in person has gone grievously wrong. "Wytteth it not youre conceill but wyteth it more youreself," says the narrator of Richard (I.80). He wants his king to show more valor against malefactors both inside and outside the court - to, in Chaucer's phrase in Lak of Stedfastnesse, "Shew forth thy swerd of castigacioun" (line 26). The first person to advise Richard badly should "have hadde hongynge on hie on the forckis" (I.108).

Richard the Redeless includes satire on court manners and clothing fashions. The author repeats the charge - familiar from complaint literature - that the court has abandoned conventional distinctions between and among degrees, allowing people of inferior birth to occupy high positions and to exert undue influence on the kingship. Richard scandalized court observers when he elevated his favorite, Robert de Vere, Earl of Oxford, to the rank of marquis of Dublin (1385) and then Duke of Ireland (1386). Similarly he invited scorn when in 1397 he elevated a group of earls to the rank of duke - the "duketti" or "dukelets," as Thomas Walsingham, monastic chronicler of St. Albans, disdainfully termed them. Shortly after his promotion to Duke of Ireland, de Vere put aside his popular wife, Philippa de Coucy, for a Bohemian woman who was said to be of low birth. (The accusation of newly advanced persons unfit for such elevation occurs in Piers Plowman and in Piers the Plowman's Crede among other writings.8) One of the "lawless" aspects of the English court during Richard's reign was the creation of factions or affinities similar to political parties. Although parliament in 1390 enacted a statute outlawing private retainers (a practice termed maintenance) together with identifying livery and badges, the king himself had recourse to a special guard, livery, and badges. Richard bestowed this honor on his Cheshire archers and Welsh pikemen, giving them gold badges; by report they could be an intimidating presence in or around the court and parliament. The author of Richard devotes a colorful section of his poem to the evils of livery and maintenance with a special focus on the "chyders of Chester" (III.317) - the brawlers from Chester who allegedly packed rural courts to discourage witnesses. These men "constrewed quarellis to quenche the peple, / And pletid with pollaxis and poyntis of swerdis" (III.327-28). In another place similar types "schewed her signes [badges] for men shulde drede / To axe ony mendis for her mysdedis" (II.33-34). The narrator lays blame for their disorder on the king: "They leid on thi leigis, Richard, lasshis ynow, / And drede nevere a dele the dome of the lawe" (III.338-39). He declares that for every man that he "merkyd" with a badge, he alienated "ten schore / Of homeliche hertis that the harme hente" (II.42-43). The narrator also critiques the court fashions and those who affect the new "guysis" (III.192). Here we find familiar complaints about "painted sleeves" and dagged clothing - clothing with holes or ornamental shapes and the kind of fashion that Chaucer's Parson deplores, including non-English items like "Duche," that is, German coats (III.193).9 But the narrator's real object of attack is the arrogance and presumption behind the fashions, the "stroutynge" (III.177) and viciousness that keep Witt from even entering the court. "'Lete sle him!'" say the "sleves that slode uppon the erthe" (III.234) - these "sleeves" being a synecdoche for overweening courtiers.

The author claims that his poem is "derklich endited" (I.20), obscurely composed, a phrase which seems to anticipate Spenser's "darke conceite" in his Letter to Raleigh concerning The Faerie Queene but which also echoes the narrator of Piers Plowman's confusion as to the nature and location of Dowel: "Where Dowel is or Dobet derkeliche ye shewen" (B 10.372), he says to Experience. Richard the Redeless' "derke" style includes beast allegories and word-play drawn from the prophetic tradition. The author uses beast allegory in at least two ways. He categorizes classes of people according to their characteristics. The most elaborate sequence of this kind is a passage on two partridges, one of which stands for Richard and the other for Henry (III.37-61). The partridge - the evil Richard - steals the baby partridges from the nest until the "true mother" (Henry) returns to feed them properly. Similarly, specific individuals receive an animal designation according to their symbolic badges. Because Richard's emblematic badge was the white hart - and those of his faction received badges displaying white harts - Richard's men are harts in the poem. But so are his people deer. From the poet's point of view it is these "homeliche hertis" (II.43), the loyal subjects of Richard (loyal hearts), who need careful guidance. Henry Bolingbroke is the Eagle (capitalized in the manuscript), the falcon, or the greyhound, while Arundel is the Horse, Warwick the Bear, and Gloucester the Swan. These emblems for the magnates are familiar from other allegorical writings, appearing for example in John Gower's Cronica tripertita and in the anonymous There Is a Busch That Is Forgrowe. The author of Richard often employs a special kind of wordplay, although these quibbles also appear in other writings of the period. A favorite (one that appears in the first-line "title" of There Is a Busch That Is Forgrowe) is "busch" for Sir John Bushy (or Bussy), one of Richard's minions, who was speaker of parliament in 1394 and again in 1397. The narrator turns "bussh" into a verb meaning to beat down or oppress: "busshinge adoun of all youre best frendis" (I.99) and "busshid with her brestis and bare adoun the pouere" (II.39).

The anonymous author of Richard the Redeless chose the alliterative style of William Langland's Piers Plowman as his poetic vehicle. This style is appropriate for the content because so many other political-satiric writings, from Song of the Husbandman to The Crowned King, were composed in it. Most alliterative lines contain three stressed syllables that alliterate and one that does not. In the first line - "And as I passid in my preiere ther prestis were at messe" - "passid," "peiere," and "prestis" alliterate, while "messe" does not. (The number of unstressed syllables may vary.) In the manuscript the scribe has placed a virgule or caesural mark ( / ) between "preiere" and "ther." Usually the virgule falls after the first two stressed words and before the last two. Sometimes the alliteration seems defective, as in I.49 and 50. In line 49, "But where this croune bicome a clerk were that wuste," the alliteration is probably on c but with some competition from b. In the next line, "But so as I can, declare it I thenke," there is no alliteration, unless we count "can" and the c of "declare." The poet has excellent facility with his alliterative lines to the extent that the sense can move easily from one line to the next without end-stopping. In a passage on the origins of rulers in Passus III, lines 263-66, one verse line naturally falls into the next:
It is not unknowen to kunnynge leodis
That rewlers of rewmes around all the erthe
Were not yffoundid at the frist tyme
To leve al at likynge and lust of the world.
discerning people

live; pleasure

The poet was also skilled in the rhetorical technique of anaphora (also termed repetitio or iteratio) - the repetition of opening words from line to line. A good example occurs in Passus III, lines 27-31, with anaphora on Ne:
Ne to hurlle with haras, ne hors well atamed,
Ne to stryve with swan, though it sholle were,
Ne to bayten on the bere, ne bynde him nother,
Ne to wilne to woo that were hem ny sibbe,
Ne to liste for to loke that her alie bledde.
hurtle at stallions; tamed
shall go to war
bait; bear; nor bind
desire misfortune; near kin
desire to see their allies

Richard the Redeless exists in an incomplete, unique copy in Cambridge University Library MS Ll.iv. 14, a quarto paper manuscript of the second quarter of the fifteenth century. The dialect is East Midland - Cambridgeshire, according to the Linguistic Atlas of Late Mediaeval English. The poem begins, on fol. 107b, just after a B version of Langland's Piers Plowman, and concludes on fol. 119. Six blank pages follow. The main text is executed in a single book hand "combining letter forms of secretary and Anglicana scripts," according to Linne Mooney.10 The scribe writes an Anglicana g (with a double loop) and sometimes a long-tailed r (or final r with a flourish) but a Secretary a, s, and d (with a looped descender which connects with the following letter).11 There are two glossators of the manuscript. The first, in a secretary book hand of the fifteenth century, contributes glosses such as "kew kaw," "Takynge of presentes," "passus Tercius," and Latin glosses. This glossator provides definitions for many words, writing his equivalents above the MS term (ffayled above MS ffolwyd at II.61 or deserved above MS served at II.185). The second glossator, in a later hand (perhaps sixteenth century), offers "Agaynste yonnge Counsaylors" on fol. 116b. In addition a glossator - probably the first - has underlined words in the text, sometimes in red (e.g., Richard [Prol.9], Henrri [Prol.11], prince, Walis, [Prol.23] kynge [Prol.24]). There are nine large rubricated capital letters: at Prol.1; Passus I.1, 20, 49; II.1; III.1, 37, 110; IV.1. The MS scribe or first glossator has indicated passus divisions only for II, III, and IV, so Barr in her edition has designated the opening of the poem as "Passus I" rather than "Prologus" (like Skeat and Day & Steele). I have found it more useful in this edition to retain Skeat's divisions of Prologus for the opening 87 lines and "Passus Primus" at line 88, with its rubricated letter and mention of "Richard the redeles."

The text of the present edition is based on a good photocopy from Cambridge University Library, checked against Paul Szarmach's careful transcription of it which he generously provided to me. I have also consulted the editions of Thomas Wright (1838 for the Camden Society and 1859 for the Rolls Series); W. W. Skeat (1873 for the Early English Text Society and 1886 for Oxford University Press); Mabel Day and Robert Steele (1936 for the Early English Text Society); and Helen Barr (1993 for Everyman's Library). I have sometimes retained manuscript readings that Skeat, Day and Steele, and Barr reject - for example, at Prol.42; Passus I.26; II.25, 55, 57, 117, 140, 148, 167; III.13, 111, 145, 163, 254, and 293. On other occasions - notably at II.64 and III.18 and 26 - I adopt previous readings.

In accordance with the editorial practices of the Middle English Texts Series, I have regularized thorn (þ) to th. The yogh (3) I have transliterated as gh (myghte for MS my3te), g (ageins for MS a3eins), y (ye for MS 3e), or z when it appears as a plural indicator (doctourz for MS doctour3); and ff as f when it appears in the initial position (for and folowe for MS ffor and ffolowe). Hyphens join words that need to be compounds in order to be easily interpreted (ho-so for MS ho so; Thoru-oute for MS Þoru oute). I have silently joined past participles with the y- prefix (which Skeat and Barr join with a hyphen); hence, ylaughte, yluggyd and ymummyd for MS y lau3te, y luggyd, and y mummyd. But I have included a hyphen when the y- prefix might cause confusion (y-yokyd for MS y yokyd). Because the scribe was sometimes careless in writing words, I have on some occasions silently supplied a missing letter or deleted a letter to correct an obvious mistake. Hence, at IV.25 the scribe wrote propfitt for proffitt; and on three occasions he wrote clergie for clerlie (I.83, III.26, and III.190). I have on a number of occasions adopted one of Skeat's emendations for purposes of alliteration or of sense. For example, at II.170 the MS reads, "This lorell þat hadde / þis loby awey," which Skeat sensibly emends to "This lorell that ladde this loby awey." At III.272 the MS reads, "And to rewle as reremys . and rest on þe daies," which Skeat has emended by inserting "not" before "to rewle," thus restoring sense to the line. The scribe seems to have fallen victim frequently to dittography (erroneously repeating a word or phrase from a previous line), and I have usually followed Skeat's suggestions for emendations. An example occurs at III.281-82: "And evere shall thou fynde, as fer as thou walkiste, / That wisdom and overewacche wonneth fer asundre," where Skeat substitutes "That" for MS "And" before "wisdom." (The previous two lines have started with "And.") But I have not adopted Skeat's emendations for defective meter, as when a line is truncated. I have let stand the (perhaps) not entirely satisfactory line III.254 - "Thanne wolde reule, if reson where amongis us" - rather than include Skeat's wholly invented insertions: "Thanne wolde [right dome] reule . if reson were amongis us." (Skeat's textual comment on this emendation reads: "We must supply right dome, i.e. just judgment, or some such words.") Although the syntax is difficult in that line, there are many places in the MS where the syntax seems difficult or faulty. Skeat even writes a line of his own at III.346, a practice which raises more difficulties than it puts to rest. But I have in the following line adopted a suggestion from Barr and inserted two words for sense ("they werched"; see the note to line 347). I have on certain occasions let stand odd MS spellings because I have glossed the words in the margin or in an explanatory note. Examples include MS counntis, which Skeat and Barr emend to countis (III.279), and serigauntis, which Skeat and Barr emend to sergiauntis (III.348).

Go To Richard the Redeless
Select Bibliography


Cambridge University Library MS Ll.iv.14, fols. 107b-119b.

Printed Editions

Barr, Helen, ed. The Piers Plowman Tradition: A Critical Edition of Pierce the Ploughman's Crede, Richard the Redeless, Mum and the Sothsegger, and The Crowned King. London: J. M. Dent, 1993.

Day, Mabel and Robert Steele, eds. Mum and the Sothsegger, Edited from the Manuscripts, Camb. Univ. Ll. iv. 14 and Brit. Mus. Add. 41666. EETS o.s 199. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1936. [An edition that combines the Cambridge University Library MS of RiR with the British Library MS Addit. - "Fragment M" - to form a single work called here Mum and the Sothsegger.]

Skeat, W. W., ed. Langland's Vision of Piers the Plowman, Text C, together with Richard the Redeless and The Crowned King. EETS o.s. 54. London: Kegan, Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co., 1873.

---, ed. The Vision of William Concerning Piers the Plowman in Three Parallel Texts, together with Richard the Redeless. 2 vols. Oxford:Clarendon Press, 1886.

Wright, Thomas, ed. Alliterative Poem on the Deposition of King Richard II. London: J. B. Nichols and Son, 1838.

---, ed. Political Poems and Songs. 2 vols. London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts, 1859. [Printed, with the title Alliterative Poem on the Deposition of King Richard II, in Vol. 1, pages 368-417.]

Studies of Richard the Redeless

Bradley, Henry. "Richard the Redeless, III 105-6." Modern Language Review 12 (1917), 202.

Eberle, Patricia J. "The Politics of Courtly Style at the Court of Richard II." In The Spirit of the Court. Ed. Glyn S. Burgess and Robert A. Taylor. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1985. Pp. 168-78. [RiR attests to the pernicious effects of magnificence at Richard II's court. Richard's governing style featured political advancement through "investment dressing" and a focus on new fashions that rendered traditional styles and behavior old fashioned and obsolete.]

Snyder, Edward D. "The Wild Irish: A Study of Some English Satires against the Irish, Scots, and Welsh." Modern Philology 17 (1920), 147-85. [Finds earliest use of the phrase "wild irish" in RiR Prol.10.]

Sources for Richard the Redeless and Mum and the Sothesegger

Bartholomaeus Anglicus. De proprietatibus rerum. Trans. John Trevisa (On the Properties of Things). Ed. M. C. Seymour, et al. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975. [The chief source for the extended beekeeper sequence in Mum.]

Brown, Carleton, and Rossell Hope Robbins. The Index of Middle English Verse and Prose. New York: Columbia University Press, 1943.

Dean, James M., ed. Six Ecclesiastical Satires. Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 1991.

---, ed. Medieval English Political Writings. Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 1996.

Eulogium historiarum. Ed. F. Haydon. Rolls Series 9, vol. 3. London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, and Roberts, 1863. [The Continuatio contains extended and important versions of Henry IV's career.]

Fasciculi Zizaniorum. Ed. W. W. Shirley. Rolls Series 5. London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, and Roberts, 1858. [A valuable collection of Lollard writings and writings about the Lollards.]

Gesta Henrici Quinti. Ed. and trans. Frank Taylor and John S. Roskell. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975.

Gower, John. Cronica tripertita. In The Major Latin Works of John Gower. Trans. Eric W. Stockton. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1962. Pp. 289-326.
Johannis de Trokelowe. Chronica et annales. Ed. H. T. Riley. Rolls Series 28.3. London: Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer, 1866. [This volume includes Thomas Walsingham's Annales for both Richard and Henry IV.]

Knighton, Henry. Knighton's Chronicle, 1337-1396. Ed. G. H. Martin. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995.

Langland, William. Piers Plowman: A Parallel-Text Edition of the A, B, C and Z Versions. Ed. A. V. C. Schmidt. Vol. 1: The Text. London: Longman, 1995. [I quote from this version of Langland's poem.]

Mandeville, John. Mandeville's Travels. Ed. M. C. Seymour. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967. [The main source for the Genghis Khan sequence in Mum.]

Piers Plowman. See Langland.

Usk, Adam. The Chronicle of Adam Usk, 1377-1421. Ed. and trans. C. Given-Wilson. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997. [Usk, a Welsh ecclesiastical lawyer hostile to Richard II, tells the story of Richard versus Henry of Lancaster in very similar terms to those of RiR and Mum.]

Walsingham, Thomas. Historia anglicana. Ed. H. T. Riley. 2 vols. Rolls Series 28. London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, and Green, 1863-64. [Vol. 2 covers the years 1381-1422.]

General Studies for Richard the Redeless and Mum and the Sothsegger

Barr, Helen. "The Relationship of Richard the Redeless and Mum and the Sothsegger: Some New Evidence." Yearbook of Langland Studies 4 (1990), 105-33. [Examines many stylistic elements, including meter, formulas, word usage, and the like to argue that RiR and Mum are not from the same poem but by the same author.]

---. "The Dates of Richard the Redeless and Mum and the Sothsegger." Notes & Queries 235 (1990), 270-75. [Suggests a possible later date for Mum than previous scholars have thought; this discussion is incorporated into her edition.]

---. "The Treatment of Natural Law in Richard the Redeless and Mum and the Sothsegger." Leeds Studies in English 23 (1992), 49-80. [Both poems reveal that natural law should govern contemporary society, which has lost its way through positive laws.]
---. Signes and Sothe: Language in the Piers Plowman Tradition. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1994. [The major study of RiR and Mum in the context of other alliterative poems after Piers Plowman.]

Bennett, J. A. W. Middle English Literature. Edited and completed by Douglas Gray. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986.

Coleman, Janet. Medieval Readers and Writers 1350-1400. New York: Columbia University Press, 1981.

Davenport, Tony. "Lusty fresche galaunts." In Aspects of Early English Drama. Ed. Paula Neuss. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1983. Pp. 111-25.

Dean, James M. The World Grown Old in Later Medieval Literature. Cambridge, MA: Medieval Academy of America, 1997.

Edwards, A. S. G. "Editing and the Teaching of Alliterative Verse." In A Guide to Editing Middle English. Ed. Vincent P. McCarren and Douglas Moffat. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1998. Pp. 95-106.

Embree, D. "Richard the Redeless and Mum and the Sothsegger: A Case of Mistaken Identity." Notes & Queries 220 (1975), 4-12. [Argues that these are two quite separate poems, not parts of the same poem.]

Facinelli, Diane A. "Treasonous Criticisms of Henry IV: The Loyal Poet of Richard the Redeless and Mum and the Sothsegger." Journal of the Rocky Mountain Medieval and Renaissance Association 10 (1989), 51-62. [Although the poet of Mum admires King Henry in certain ways, he criticizes him for some of the shortcomings alleged of Richard in RiR, including failing to ease taxation, tolerating legal abuses, and selecting selfish advisors.]

Ferster, Judith. Fictions of Advice: The Literature and Politics of Counsel in Late Medieval England. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996.

Green, Richard F. Poets and Princepleasers: Literature and the English Court in the Late Middle Ages. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1980.

Hudson, Anne. "The Legacy of Piers Plowman." In A Companion to Piers Plowman. Ed. John A. Alford. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988. Pp. 251-66.

Jacob, E. F. The Fifteenth Century 1399-1485. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1961. [Like McKisack's The Fourteenth Century, this volume tells the broad outlines of history in chronological fashion; excellent index.]

Lawton, David. "Lollardy and the Piers Plowman Tradition." Modern Language Review 76 (1981), 780-93.

---. "The Unity of Middle English Alliterative Poetry." Speculum 58 (1983), 72-94. [Argues for the importance of Piers Plowman and penance in the alliterative tradition.]

McKisack, May. The Fourteenth Century, 1307-1399. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1959.

McNiven, Peter. Heresy and Politics in the Reign of Henry IV: The Burning of John Badby. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell Press, 1987. [Of particular relevance for Mum are Chaps. 5 ("Death Penalty") and 6 ("Heresy and Sedition").]

Pearsall, Derek. Old English and Middle English Poetry. London: Routledge & K. Paul, 1977. [See Pearsall's efficient treatment of RiR and Mum in his discussion of "The Piers Plowman Group," pp.181-82.]

Robbins, Rossell Hope. "XIII. Poems Dealing with Contemporary Conditions." In A Manual of the Writings in Middle English, 1050-1500. Gen. ed. Albert E. Hartung. Vol. 5. New Haven: Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1975. Pp. 1385-536, 1631-725.

Robertson, D. W., Jr. Chaucer's London. New York: Wiley, 1968. [Chap. 4, "A Brief Chronicle," skillfully narrates political events from the reigns of Edward II to Richard II.]

Saul, Nigel. Richard II. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997. [The definitive biography of Richard II and his age.]

Scase, Wendy. "Proud Gallants and Popeholy Priests: The Context and Function of a Fifteenth-Century Satirical Poem." Medium Ævum 63 (1994), 275-86.

Scattergood, V. J. Politics and Poetry in the Fifteenth Century. London: Blandford, 1971. [The standard study of these issues in the period after Langland and Chaucer.]

---. "Fashion and Morality in the Late Middle Ages." In England in the Fifteenth Century: Proceedings of the 1986 Harlaxton Symposium. Ed. Daniel Williams. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell Press, 1987. Pp. 255-72.
Strohm, Paul. England's Empty Throne: Usurpation and the Language of Legitimation, 1399-1422. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998. [Focuses on the power of symbolic writing in the early years of Lancastrian rule.]

Taylor, John. English Historical Literature in the Fourteenth Century. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987.

Thomson, John A. F. The Transformation of Medieval England, 1370-1529. London: Longman, 1983.

Turville-Petre, Thorlac. The Alliterative Revival. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1977.