Title Background

William Langland

William Langland

Hanna provides basic information about L and his sources; the A, B, and C texts; the episodic structure of the narrative; and the number and content of Will’s dreams. Concentrating on the B text, he raises in the problem of the poem’s ambiguous and complex narrative and personnel. He proffers a number of examples to illustrate the poem’s character: Will’s meeting with the friars (passus 8); his conversation with Lady Holy Church (passus 1); the character of Piers; and Piers’s discussion of the question of sin (passus 5). While the meaning of the poem’s allegory is spiritual and religious, the letter of the poem can often be interpreted as though L had merely written a romance: language at once offers instruction, and conceals it. The moral import of the poem is often lost on those who most need instruction. Hanna then discusses Piers’s description of Truth’s castle in relation to all three versions of the poem, observing that this episode reveals the greatness of PPl, and the compelling nature of the intellectual statement L makes in it.


In The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Literature 1100-1500, ed. by Larry Scanlon (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), pp. 125-38.


Hanna, Ralph