Title Background

The Antifraternal Tradition in Medieval Literature.

The Antifraternal Tradition in Medieval Literature.

Pp. 247-87: In the B Prologue, friars are grouped among the “wanderers” and “wasters” guilty of faults of speech and works. Langland upsets the traditional Franciscan notion of friars as ioculatores Domini by making friars practitioners of false speech, to be distinguished from true “minstrels” who use the divine gift of speech properly. The association of friars with the faults of speech recalls William of St. Amour’s description of the pseudoapostoli; in his designation of friars as dishonest beggars, Langland is close to the position of Thomas de Wilton who attacked the friars’ interpretation of Ne soliciti sitis as rejecting manual labor. The speech of Need, a possible agent of Antichrist, ignores careful theological restrictions governing the suspension of property laws and perverts the notion of temperance. The assault of Antichrist serves on the personal level to define Need’s temptation to Will, himself described as a wanderer, beggar, and minstrel, as that of saving one’s life in purely physical terms. The second half of B.20 parallels the first on an institutional level, with the friar’s institutionalized need as threatening to the Church as Will’s personal need is to his salvation. Friars are seen as the symbolic opposites of Piers and Conscience; Sir Penetrans Domos is the embodiment of those prophesied in 2 Tim. 3:6 on the Last Days.

Rev. Robert E. Lerner, SAC 9 (1987): 263-66; John A. Alford, Speculum 64 (1989): 222-23; John B. Friedman, JEGP 88 (1989): 396-99; John Scattergood, YES 19 (1989): 303; Christina von Nolcken, MP 86 (1989): 292-94.


Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986.


Szittya, Penn R.