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Will’s Work

Will’s Work

L represents himself within the poem as a hermit, choosing that vocation in order to associate himself with a particular variety of poetic career. His dress, his cohabitation with Kitte, and the anxiety over his wandering and unregulated status combine to suggest the status of hermit. In the “autobiographical” passage of C.5, Will identifies as the “lomes” with which he labors those offices (Placebo and Dirige) which are reserved for an educated cleric, and which Conscience has identified at 3.464-65 as the appropriate duties of perfect, messianic-age priests, underwriting Will’s claim to perfection (5.84). To justify his reliance on begging at great houses for sustenance, Will claims to function as a domestic spiritual advisor who receives his keep in return for his services. When he suggests at 7.104-9 that evil minstrels be replaced with the “pore, a lered man, a blynd man . . . or a bedredene womman,” he insinuates himself, the “lered man,” into those whom Jesus enjoins his followers to call upon in Luke 14:21. Through this rhetorical move, L identifies himself as one of God’s minstrels, creating an apostolic function both for his way of life and for his poetry. Will’s identification with “lunatyk lollares” (9.105-38) ironically undercuts his status as an educated man, even as he seeks to secure for himself their claim to divine inspiration.


Justice and Kerby-Fulton, Written Work: Langland, Labor and Authorship. 23-66.


Hanna, Ralph, III