William Langland

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William Langland is a guess at the name of the author of Piers Plowman. The guess is supported by very meager evidence. However it is convenient to have an author's name even if there is only the barest evidence supporting it.

From internal evidence within the poem it seems that the author had some connection with the Malvern Hills in northwest England and some connection with London. The author shows some rather specialized knowledge about religious matters, but does not speak like most people expect a fill-fledged priest to talk. One passage says clearly that he had a wife and child; but in Piers Plowman one can never be absolutely certain and the family might be allegoric. It is usually assumed that the author was in minor clerical orders. According to the poem he made his living reciting his own poetry.

The poem now called Piers Plowman (it has a number of different names in manuscript) exists in three different versions (possibly four) called A, B and C (and perhaps Z). It is usually assumed that the A version is the oldest (the Z version, is accepted is even older) followed by the B version and then the C version. The poem refers to some contemporary events (such as "pestilence time" meaning the Black Death) and one of these events fairly clearly took place in 1362. Hence the A version is usually dated to around 1365. The B and C versions are harder to date, but 1375 and 1385 are convenient dates. The B version includes enough new material to double the size of the poem. The C version adds relatively little additional material but the contents have been reworked.

External links

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