Winner and Waster’s ‘Wyse Wordes’: Teaching Economics and Nationalism in Fourteenth-Century England.
Casting the center of WW as a debate suggests its didactic intent, in this case concerning economic transactions, income and outgo, that are best understood through economic “circular-flow theory.” Winner, in consuming as little as possible, removes wealth from the circular flow in England; Waster, who does not produce, likewise dissipates wealth. They are equally bad for England; at the end of the poem the king suggests their mutual dependence. The poem is best considered a university-style disputation, in which the master’s judgment does not determine which adversary has won, but how the question is to be resolved. In that part of the king’s determination missing from the manuscript, Waster would have become one of the king’s loyal followers, with both sides reconciled and they (and the audience) all aware of their own economic responsibilities in maintaining and reproducing English wealth.