Title Background

A Taciturn Will

A Taciturn Will

Taciturnity, the inclination to silence, comes to matter for Will in the final episode of the third dream, when his ‘out of mesure’ rebuke of Reason, responsible, as Will sees it, for human reckless conduct, results in the loss of his revelatory inner dream. This essay argues that thirteenth- and fourteenth-century discourse on taciturnity in moral texts informs the entire episode, from the end of Recklessness’s diatribe. Rooted in a Roman ethic of cautionary self-interest and in Hebrew wisdom literature, this sapiential discourse is consequentialist: to act against human limitations and the nature of the world as humans have observed it over time is pointless and leads to painful consequences, while acting in accordance with both yields a productive life. L employs this discourse to develop the painful consequences of Will’s uncontrolled, adversarial speech, a dimension of reckless conduct. While Reason harps on Will’s limitations as a critic of the natural order, Imaginatif develops how Will may embrace taciturnity not only as a prudent way of protecting himself from self-inflicted injury, but also as a means of listening attentively and receptively in order to learn what he desires to know. This essay focuses on the C text, where revisions, additions, and excisions link Will’s rebuke to Recklessness’s diatribes and to intemperate sexual conduct and explore more fully the causes and painful consequences of Will’s speech. In the opening of C.14, a major addition and excision make it clear that Will adopts taciturnity at the end of the third dream as a result of his experience and in light of moral discourse on the benefits of silence. (EC)


Yearbook of Langland Studies, 33 (2019), 43–67


Craun, Ed