The Rokeles: An Index for a ‘Langland’ Family History
Almost all modern readings of PPl assume that we must take the autobiographical passages in B and C at face value, or adopt an ‘affected agnosticism’ about L’s real circumstances beyond the information in the early fifteenth-century note in Trinity College, Dublin MS 212, which identifies him as the son of Stacy de Rokele (p. 85). While the poem’s autobiographical passages depict L as an impoverished cleric in minor orders, the Trinity MS note identifies him with a prominent and widespread noble family. Adams argues that the abundant documentary evidence concerning the Rokeles serves to illuminate L’s circumstances, and by extension his ‘upper-class worldview’ (p. 86). L’s elite status explains the patronage that secured his education (mentioned in the C autobiographical passage, but also evidenced by the learning on display in his poem), and it also explains his ‘obvious “Tory” bias’ (p. 88). L may have taken the name ‘Langland’ because he was illegitimate, or as a reference to the strip of land a ploughman ploughs, or because (as suggested by an indictment from 1385) it was a nickname he used in life. The chapter concludes with an index of the Rokeles from the late eleventh century to the early fifteenth.