Need Men and Women Labor? Langland’s Wanderer and the Labor Ordinances.
At the beginning of C.5, Will’s own Reason and Conscience confront him regarding the major provisions of the Statute of Laborers; rather than charging him with any infraction, they query him on every article to determine whether he is bound by it. Focusing the issue thus, WL suggests the complexity of the question as it relates to his persona, one who without clear justification does not labor for his needs. It is a crucial issue in the poem, especially as Piers defines the labor of the folk and seeks to establish guidelines for treating idlers (B.6) and in the C-text additions to the gloss on Piers’s pardon. Will claims clerical exclusion from the law, but also admits to being an idle beggar and wanderer, both of which contravene the law.
Hanawalt, Chaucer's England, 110-29.
Clopper, Lawrence M.