On the Road: Langland and Some Medieval Outlaw Stories’ ,
This essay analyses the culture of the medieval road, and the appearance of this culture in literary works. It shows that L can use these allusions for sophisticated moral purposes, as in C.13.33-92, in which the danger to the rich merchant and the safety of the poor messenger, both of whom are travelling some distance to Winchester Fair, become a parable whose point is the reiteration of Christ’s praise given to the widow for surrendering her last mite. Yet L treats outlawry itself in such a way as to impose on it ‘a static, moral, socially responsible paradigm’, whereby outlaws steal from other road-users, and receive punishment should they be captured (p. 210). In such texts as The Gest of Robyn Hode, Eustache le Moine, Fouke le Fitz Waryn, and The Outlaw’s Song of Trailbaston, outlaw stories are signs of social and economic change. Outlaws and their friends and enemies who frequent the medieval road are often individualists who are independent of guilds, the Church and the feudal system, and who challenge these institutions.