Words, Forms, Senses and Texts
The preoccupation with the abuse of truth in Richard the Redeless and Thomas Usk’s Testament of Love
Joanna Bukowska, Adam Mickiewicz University, Kalisz
The preoccupation with the abuse of truth in the Ricardian period has drawn the attention of many literary critics and inspired numerous discussions of truth as a major medieval Christian and political virtue as well as an equal number of analyses of the literary significance of the motif of truth in the representation of conflicts in medieval literature. The distinctively high occurrence of this motif in the literature of the last decades of the fourteenth century has been attributed to several factors such as the anxiety generated by the gradual dissolution of the feudal system, clerical discussions concerning the sins of the tongue, changes in the legal system, and finally a shift from oral to written culture. The resulting destabilization of the conceptual framework of truth encouraged a determination to uphold the value of truth and to expose and censure its abuse. The multiplicity of frames of reference within which the abuse of truth might be considered can be exemplified by a discussion of Richard the Redeless and Thomas Usk’s Testament of Love, which represent, respectively, poetry and prose, and provide alternative perspectives on the turbulent world of king Richard’s politics. Although the discrepancy between the ideal of truth and various instances of its violation underpins the structure of both of these texts, they juxtapose truth with falsehood for two contrasting purposes. If Richard the Redeless provides a critique of the king and his false advisers, Thomas Usk’s Testament of...
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