Langland’s Markings for the Structure of Piers Plowrnan
Modern editions of the A and B texts have differed, largely without discussion, in their treatments of the passus markers in the manuscripts of the poem: Knott-Fowler and Schmidt transcribe the passus markers; Kane and K-D omit the markers and substitute a consecutive numbering of passus. Robert Adams (MAE 54 : 208-31) argued that the markings were unauthorial and challenged the notion that the poem was quadripartite, since many of its ideas and structures were tripartite. But if the B manuscript tradition is most corrupt, a better procedure would involve investigation of the B-markings in the context of those in the other manuscript traditions. An examination of the A, AC and C manuscripts suggests that the consecutive numbering of the passus, although seen in some early manuscripts, was not a part of the author’s own marking system and was partially responsible for the corruptions of the markings in the B tradition. Finds evidence in these other manuscripts for WL’s own quadripartite structure, in which he designated the first part of the poem the Visio and the second part the Vita, which latter part he further subdivided into sections that he marked Dowel, Dobet, and Dobest.