Rewriting the Middle Ages: Some Suggestions
Urges scholars to take into account the fact of production for exchange in a pre-capitalist market economy, as it affected and is represented by WL, Chaucer, Margery Kempe, et al. In PPl markets and commodity production are pervasive. WL evaluates the opportunities and conditions of the post-plague wage-laborers in terms of the gentry’s ideology, representing those in most intimate contact with the market as subversive forces in the ideal community. Haukyn represents competitive market tendencies and a concomitant aggressive individualism. Will himself is “assimilated to the circuits of exchange” that WL deplores: isolated, incorrigibly individualistic, lacking the community bonds that would ensure a stable identity and place in society. Though such a representation is criticized in the poem, the figure is symptomatic of overwhelmingly strong forces within WL’s culture.
JMRS 18 (1988): 221-40, esp. 228-34.