Piers or Will: Confusion of Identity in the Early Reception of Piers Plowman.
Pace Skeat, confusion between the characters Will and Piers existed prior to Crowley’s editions of 1550. Three manuscripts of the A text, one of B, and fourteen of C offer a rubric in the form visio Wilelmi de petro plouhman, yet many manuscripts have no rubrics that mention William, and ten have rubrics that suggest the vision is Piers’s. Marginal notes in two manuscripts explicitly confuse the identities of Piers and Will, and interpolations in passus 6 of Huntington MS. HM 114 extend a speech of Piers with material from Will’s narration corresponding to C.9.66-281 and C.Prol.91-127. Ipleyne Piers (slightly antedating Crowley’s editions) has Piers Plowman assuming activities which in PPl are distributed between Piers and Will, while at the end of the Plowman’s Tale the plowman is discovered to be the writer of the work.
MAE 60 (1991): 273-84.
Thorne, J. R.