The long man ys seld wys’: Proverbial Characterization and Langland’s Long Will.
The authors begin with some examples of how L uses images of both tallness and foolishness in his construction of the semi-autobiographical persona of Will. They suggest that “these two facets of the characterization of Will” might be related and look for evidence of this in the proverb tradition (75). They cite numerous examples of medieval Latin proverbs that offer the “statement that tall men lack wisdom” (77). Even though this proverbial statement is somewhat less well attested to in the vernacular tradition, they offer examples in Old French, Dutch, and fifteenth- and sixteenth-century English. Deskis and Hill conclude by suggesting that since we can locate these elements of self-portraiture in the proverbial tradition of the high Middle Ages, we should not read L’s portrait as “simply a realistic image of the poet,” but as a “complex pattern of ironic self-deprecation” (79).
YLS 18 (2004): 73-79
Deskis, Susan E. and Thomas D. Hill