Title Background

The Constraints of Satire in <i>Piers Plowman</i> and <i>Mum and the Sothsegger</i>.

The Constraints of Satire in Piers Plowman and Mum and the Sothsegger.

The constraints on satire voiced in PPl and Mum are not part of a fictional construct alone, but should be seen as related to non-fictional prohibitions, of increasing intensity in the thirty-year period beginning 1378, on speech and writing dealing with semi-Pelagianism, Lollardy, and slander. PPl presents many topics that are legislated against, e.g., mendicancy of the friars, corruption of the papacy, disendowment, confession; Mum’s most dangerous complaint is one made against the Council of Henry IV. Both works employ strategies designed to authorize their satire, largely through the inadequacy of various institutional and textual authorities whose existence should render truth-telling unnecessary. PPl, however, goes beyond this to question deeply the practice of the satirist in light of a theology of mercy inconsistent with the judgmental attitude on which satire is premissed.