This book is a sublime `drama' of errors. The prince and the pauper change clothes and are mistaken by the whole population for one another. The prince lives a life of a vagabond and the pauper a royal one. In other words, all men are equal; one has only to change the garments. And, `So evanescent and unstable are men's works in the world.'
This book gives a fair picture of England in the 16th century, worth a Defoe or a Swift: the immense chasm between the rich and the poor, a heavily biased and corrupt judicial system and extremely cruel punishment. `It was a crime to be hungry in England.'
People were hanged for trifling larcenies and slowly boiled for alleged poisoning. `Witches' were burnt at the stake: `My good old blameless mother strove to earn bread by nursing the sick; one of these died, the doctors knew not how, so my mother was burnt for a witch, whilst my babes looked on and wailed ... drink to the merciful English law that delivered her from the English hell!'
The rich chased their farmers away by foreclosures (changing farms in sheep ranges), making instantly beggars of them. They risked heavily to be sold as slaves.
This book is a bittersweet Breughelian comedy about human injustice, cruelty and ultimately generosity.
Not to be missed.