Langland, William

born с 1330
died с 1400

Presumed author of the poem known as "Piers Plowman.

" Little is known of his life, though he clearly had a deep knowledge of theology and was interested in the asceticism of St. Bernard de Clairvaux. One of the greatest Middle English alliterative poems, "Piers Plowman" is an allegorical work in the form of a series of dream visions with a complex variety of religious themes; written in simple, colloquial language, it contains powerful imagery.

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▪ English poet
born c. 1330
died c. 1400

      presumed author of one of the greatest examples of Middle English alliterative poetry, generally known as Piers Plowman, an allegorical work with a complex variety of religious themes. One of the major achievements of Piers Plowman is that it translates the language and conceptions of the cloister into symbols and images that could be understood by the layman. In general, the language of the poem is simple and colloquial, but some of the author's imagery is powerful and direct.

      There were originally thought to be three versions of Piers Plowman: the A version of the text, which was the earliest, followed by the B and C versions that consisted of revisions and further amplifications of the major themes of A. However, a fourth version, called Z, has been suggested and the order of issue questioned. The version described here is from the B text, which consists of (1) a prologue and seven passus (divisions) concerned primarily with the life of man in society, the dangers of Meed (love of gain), and manifestations of the seven capital sins; and (2) 13 passus ostensibly dealing with the lives of Do-wel, Do-bet, and Do-best; in effect, with the growth of the individual Christian in self-knowledge, grace, and charity.

      In its general structure the poem mirrors the complexity of the themes with which it deals, particularly in the recurring concepts of Do-wel, Do-bet, and Do-best, all in the end seen as embodied in Christ. They are usually identified with the active, contemplative, and “mixed” religious life, but the allegory of the poem is often susceptible to more than one interpretation, and some critics have related it to the traditional exegetical way of interpreting the Scriptures historically, allegorically, anagogically, and topologically.

      Little is known of Langland's life: he is thought to have been born somewhere in the region of the Malvern Hills, in Worcestershire, and if he is to be identified with the “dreamer” of the poem, he may have been educated at the Benedictine school in Great Malvern. References in the poem suggest that he knew London and Westminster as well as Shropshire, and he may have been a cleric in minor orders in London.

      Langland clearly had a deep knowledge of medieval theology and was fully committed to all the implications of Christian doctrine. He was interested in the asceticism of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, and his comments on the defects of churchmen and the religious in his day are nonetheless concomitant with his orthodoxy.

Additional Reading
Joseph S. Wittig, William Langland Revisited (1997); M. Teresa Tavormina, Kindly Similitude: Marriage and Family in Piers Plowman (1995); J.A. Burrow, Langland's Fictions (1993); James Simpson, Piers Plowman: An Introduction to the B-Text (1990); Nicolette Zeeman, Piers Plowman and the Medieval Discourse of Desire (2006).

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Langland,William — Lang·land (lăngʹlənd), William. 1332? 1400. English poet who is credited with the authorship of The Vision of William Concerning Piers the Plowman, a medieval religious allegory. * * * …   Universalium

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  • Langland — William Langland (* ca. 1330; † 1387) war einer der bedeutendsten mittelenglischen Dichter. Über das Leben Langlands ist nur wenig bekannt, sein Name kann nur aus dem ihm zugeschriebenen Werk Piers Plowman abgeleitet werden. Dieses zählt neben… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • William langford — William Langland William Langland (v .1330 v. 1386) est l auteur supposé de Pierre le laboureur (Piers Plowman), poème narratif allégorique considéré comme un chef d œuvre de la littérature anglaise du Moyen Âge antérieure à Geoffrey Chaucer.… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • William Langland — es el supuesto autor de la primera obra conocida de Piers Plowman cuya traducción al español fue Pedro el Labrador. Nacido hacia el año 1332 en Ledbury cerca de los pantanos galeses y muerto en 1400. Parece que fue investido con las órdenes… …   Wikipedia Español

  • William Langland — [William Langland] (c. 1330– c. 1386) an English poet whose only known work is ↑Piers Plowman, a poem describing a man’s spiritual journey in search of the truth …   Useful english dictionary

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