The Prologue of Wynnere and Wastoure
Gollancz was unjustified in his heavy emendation of the Prologue of WW. Of the twelve emendations he introduced, only three – boyes of [no] blode (14), hir to at hir (15), thies to three (2 5) – are probably correct. Pace Gollancz, the Prologue is conventional in being structured through linked commonplaces, as recommended by the rhetoricians. The themes of the effect of hypocrisy and treachery in contemporary society and the degeneration of poetry into foolish entertainment are most closely paralleled by PPl A.11.1-37. Both poems draw on a tradition of complaint against the deceptiveness of outward show. The Prologue of WW falls into three roughly equal sections that deal with strange events since the siege of Troy, signs of Doomsday, and the rejection of true poets in favor of jesters and buffoons. In each section the time scale switches from the past to an uncertain future with emphasis placed firmly on the present. The Prologue serves to establish the character of the poet, places responsibility on the audience to transmit the poet’s message, and stresses the importance of the matter of the debate that follows.