Langland’s Fair Field
L’s “fair feld ful of folk,” usually understood as a level or pleasant field, might be better understood as the site of a village fair. Reading “fair” as noun instead of adjective renders a more normal metrical pattern for the line, but the most compelling evidence for the reading is the resemblance of the vision of the A-text prologue to a medieval fair. The allegory of the vision as the world of human activity gives way to a vision of the fair with the introduction of those who “chosen [hem] to chaffare.” The predominance of caterers, persons associated with the cloth trade, manual laborers, and particularly toll-takers coincides with historical records of those who frequented fairs. The introduction of the cardinals and the royal court into the prologue in the B and C texts inexplicably disrupts the vision of the world as a fair.