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Encyclopedia > William Langland
Langland's Dreamer: from an illuminated initial in a Piers Plowman manuscript held at Corpus Christi College, Oxford
Langland's Dreamer: from an illuminated initial in a Piers Plowman manuscript held at Corpus Christi College, Oxford

William Langland is the conjectured author of the 14th-century English dream-vision Piers Plowman. The attribution of Piers to Langland rests principally on the evidence of a manuscript held at Trinity College, Dublin (MS 212). This directly ascribes 'Perys Ploughman' to one 'Willielmi de Langlond', son of 'Stacy de Rokayle, who died in Shipton-under-Wichwood, a tenant of the Lord Spenser in the county of Oxfordshire'. Other manuscripts also name the author as 'Robert or William langland', or 'Wilhelmus W.' (most likely shorthand for 'William of Wichwood'). The poem itself also seems to point towards Langland's authorship. At one stage the narrator remarks: 'I have lyved in londe...my name is longe wille' (B.XV.152). This can be taken as a coded reference to the poet's name, in the style of much late-medieval literature (see, for instance, Villon's acrostics in Le Testament). Although the evidence may appear slender, Langland's authorship has been widely accepted by commentators since the 1920s. It is not, however, entirely beyond dispute, as recent work by Stella Pates and C. David Benson has demonstrated. Image File history File linksMetadata Will_Dreaming. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Will_Dreaming. ... Page from a 14th century Psalter, showing drolleries on the right margin and a plowman at the bottom. ... An author is the person who creates a written work, such as a book, story, article or the like. ... A Dream vision is a literary genre, literary device, or literary convention, where the narrator falls asleep and learns information in a dream, usually from a guide, that they could not have learned otherwise. ... Page from a 14th century Psalter, showing drolleries on the right margin and a plowman at the bottom. ... Evidence has several meanings as indicated below. ... Villon can refer to: People François Villon (1431-c. ...


Almost nothing is known of Langland himself. His entire identity rests on a string of conjectures and vague hints. It would seem that he was born in the West Midlands: Langland's narrator receives his first vision while sleeping in the Malvern Hills (between Herefordshire and Worcestershire), which suggests some level of attachment to this area. The dialect of the poem also implies that its author originated from this part of the country. Although his date of birth is unknown, there is a strong indication that he died in c.1385-6. A note written by one 'Iohan but' ('John But') in a fourteenth-century manuscript of the poem (Rawlinson 137) makes direct reference to the death of its author: whan this werke was wrouyt, ere Wille myte aspie/ Deth delt him a dent and drof him to the erthe/ And is closed vnder clom ('once this work was made, before Will was aware/ Death struck him a blow and knocked him to the ground/ And now he is buried under the soil'). Since But himself, according to Edith Rickert, seems to have died in 1387, Langland must have died shortly before this date. Malvern Hills could refer to: Malvern Hills District Council, in Worcestershire, England Malvern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, on the border of Herefordshire and Worcestershire, England This is a disambiguation page — a navigational aid which lists other pages that might otherwise share the same title. ... Herefordshire is a traditional and ceremonial county and unitary district in the West Midlands region of England in the United Kingdom. ... Worcestershire (pronounced ; abbreviated Worcs) is a county located in the West Midlands region of central England. ...


The rest of our knowledge of the poet can only be reconstructed from Piers itself. There is in fact a wealth of ostensibly biographical data in the poem, but it is difficult to know how this should be treated. The C-text of Piers contains a passage in which Will describes himself as a 'loller' living in the Cornhill area of London (perhaps a reference to Lollardy), and refers directly to his wife and child: it also suggests that he was well above average height, and made a living reciting prayers for the dead. However, it would be rash to take this episode at face value. The distinction between allegory and 'real-life' in Piers is by no means absolute, and the entire passage, as Wendy Scase observes, is suspiciously reminiscent of the 'false confession' tradition in medieval literature (represented elsewhere by the Confessio Goliae and by Fals-Semblaunt in Jean de Meun's Roman de la Rose). A similar passage in the final Passus of the B- and C-texts provides further ambiguous details. This also refers to Will's wife, and describes his torments by Elde (Old Age), as he complains of baldness, gout and impotence. This may well indicate that the poet had already reached middle age by the 1370s: but once again suspicions are aroused by the conventional nature of this description (see, for instance, Walter Kennedy's 'In Praise of Aige' and The Parlement of the Thre Ages), and the fact that it occurs towards the end of the poem, when Will's personal development is reaching its logical conclusion. Cornhill is one of the principal streets of the City of London, the historic nucleus of modern London. ... London is the capital city of the United Kingdom and of England. ... John Wyclif gives his Bible translation to Lollards Lollardy or Lollardry was the political and religious movement of the Lollards from the late 14th century to early in the time of the English Reformation. ... Jean de Meun or Jean de Meung (c. ... Mirth and Gladness lead a Dance in this miniature from a manuscript of the Roman de la Rose in the Bodleian Library (MS Douce 364, folio 8r). ... Walter Kennedy (flourished 1500), Saint of Lord Kennedy, was educated at Glasgow, and is perhaps best known as Dunbars antagonist in the Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedy. ...


Further details can be inferred from the poem, but these are also far from unproblematic. For instance, the detailed and highly sophisticated level of religious knowledge in the poem indicates that Langland had some connection to the clergy, but the nature of this relationship is uncertain. The poem shows no obvious bias towards any particular group or order of churchmen, but is rather even-handed in its anticlericalism, attacking the regular and secular clergy indiscriminately. This makes it difficult to align Langland with any specific order. He is probably best regarded, as John Bowers writes, as a member of 'that sizable group of unbeneficed clerks who formed the radical fringe of contemporary society...the poorly shod Will is portrayed "y-robed in russet" traveling about the countryside, a crazed dissident showing no respect to his superiors'. Malcom Godden has proposed that he lived as an itinerant hermit, attaching himself to a patron temporarily, exchanging writing services for shelter and food. Anti-clericalism is a movement that opposes religious interference into public and political life and more generally the encroachment of religion in the citizens lives. ...


The tradition that Langland was a Wycliffite, an idea promoted by Robert Crowley's 1550 edition of Piers and complicated by early Lollard appropriation of the Plowman-figure (see, for instance, Pierce the Ploughman's Crede and The Plowman's Tale), is almost certainly incorrect. It is true that Langland and Wyclif shared many concerns: both question the value of indulgences and pilgrimage, promote the use of the vernacular in preaching, attack clerical corruption, and even advocate disendowment. But these topics were widely discussed throughout the late fourteenth century, only becoming typically 'Wycliffite' after Langland's death. Furthermore, as Pamela Gradon observes, at no point does Langland echo Wyclif's characteristic teachings on the sacraments. Robert Crowley could refer to: Robert Crowley (c. ... Lollardy or Lollardry was the political and religious movement of the Lollards in late 14th century and early 15th century England. ... The frontispiece of Reyner Wolfes edition of Pierce the Ploughmans Crede, printed in 1553 Pierce the Ploughmans Crede is an alliterative poem of 855 lines, savagely lampooning the four orders of friars. ... There are actually two pseudo-Chaucerian texts called The Plowmans Tale. ... Wycliffe may also refer to Wycliffe Bible Translators John Wycliff (or Wycliffe) (1328 - December 31, 1384) was an English theologian and early proponent of reform in the Roman Catholic Church during the 14th century. ... A sacrament is a Christian rite that mediates divine grace. ...



For further information, see the article Piers Plowman. Page from a 14th century Psalter, showing drolleries on the right margin and a plowman at the bottom. ...


References

  • C. David Benson, 'The Langland Myth', in William Langland's Piers Plowman: a book of essays, ed. by Kathleen M. Hewett-Smith (New York: Routledge, 2001), pp.83-99. ISBN 0815328044
  • John M. Bowers, 'Piers Plowman and the Police: notes towards a history of the Wycliffite Langland', Yearbook of Langland Studies 6 (1992), pp.1-50.
  • Malcolm Godden, The Making of Piers Plowman (London: Longman, 1990). ISBN 0582016851
  • Pamela Gradon, 'Langland and the Ideology of Dissent', Proceedings of the British Academy 66 (1980), pp.179-205.
  • Stella Pates, The Rock and the Plough: John Grandisson, William Langland and Piers Plowman, a theory of authorship (Cirencester: Fairford Press, 2000). ISBN 01285656999
  • Edith Rickert, 'John But, Messenger and Maker', Modern Philology 11 (1903), pp.107-17.
  • Wendy Scase, Piers Plowman and the New Anticlericalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989). ISBN 052136017X

External links

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William Langland

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William Langland - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (927 words)
William Langland is the conjectured author of the 14th-century English dream-vision Piers Plowman.
The tradition that Langland was a Wycliffite, an idea promoted by Robert Crowley's 1550 edition of Piers and complicated by early Lollard appropriation of the Plowman-figure (see, for instance, Pierce the Ploughman's Crede and The Plowman's Tale), is almost certainly incorrect.
It is true that Langland and Wyclif shared many concerns: both question the value of indulgences and pilgrimage, promote the use of the vernacular in preaching, attack clerical corruption, and even advocate disendowment.
William Langland - definition of William Langland in Encyclopedia (189 words)
He is thought to have been born in Ledbury, England and to have attended school at Malvern Priory or Worcester (Royal Grammar School Worcester).
Essentially the only other thing known of Langland is that he is responsible for writing Piers Plowman (the work's full title is The Vision of William concerning Piers the Plowman).
While some scholars feel the poem is a composite of several different authors' verses, most attribute at least the earliest two sections of the poem's text, which date to 1362 and 1377 respectively, to Langland (the authorship of the third fragment, written in the mid-1390s, is disputed).
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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