Justice and Wage-Labor after the Black Death: Some Perplexities for William Langland.
The practices of wage-labor after the Black Death posed significant problems to WL, a Christian Aristotelian in his belief in justice regulating human activity according to right reason. WL endorses the regulation of villein tenure by an aristocracy guided by truthe. Yet villeins are largely replaced in the poem by wage-laborers who pose an anti-authoritarian challenge to traditional principles. Meed dramatizes the implications: a community lacking moral principles, where redde quod debet becomes unintelligible. A just price can be arrived at only in an open market, such as was forestalled by the Statute of Laborers, which WL supports. Will himself is implicated as a clerical laborer unable to reconcile the evangelical command to love with a morally defensible way of obtaining the necessities of life.