Title Background

<i>Piers Plowman</i> B XIII 190

Piers Plowman B XIII 190

In Conscience’s declaration that ‘þe wil of þe wye and þe wil of folk here | Haþ meved my mood to moorne for my synnes’ (B.13.190–91), the b-verse of line 190 is suspect: the term of seems not to have been in the B archetype. Either that archetypal text omitted of erroneously, leading some subsequent scribes (e.g., of MS W) to recover it conjecturally, or it correctly represented an original in which L employed the adjective wil, derived from the Old Norse villr, ‘astray’. The term might here mean ‘errant, wayward’: ‘The whole company at dinner, not just the gluttonous friar (“þe wye”), stands in need of a new direction along the path of contrition which Conscience goes on to mark out for Hawkin; but at present the “folk” are astray’ (p. 125).


Notes & Queries, 55 (2008), 124–25.


Burrow, J. A.