William Langland

Also found in: Dictionary, Wikipedia.
Related to William Langland: Piers Plowman, John Gower

Langland, William

Langland, William, c.1332–c.1400, putative author of Piers Plowman. He was born probably at Ledbury near the Welsh marshes and may have gone to school at Great Malvern Priory. Although he took minor orders he never became a priest. Later in London he apparently eked out his living by singing masses and copying documents. His great work, Piers Plowman, or, more precisely, The Vision of William concerning Piers the Plowman, is an allegorical poem in unrhymed alliterative verse, regarded as the greatest Middle English poem prior to Chaucer. It is both a social satire and a vision of the simple Christian life. The poem consists of three dream visions: (1) in which Holy Church and Lady Meed (representing the temptation of riches) woo the dreamer; (2) in which Piers leads a crowd of penitents in search of St. Truth; and (3) the vision of Do-well (the practice of the virtues), Do-bet (in which Piers becomes the Good Samaritan practicing charity), and Do-best (in which the simple plowman is identified with Jesus himself). The 47 extant manuscripts of the poem fall into three groups: the A-text (2,567 lines, c.1362); the B-text, which greatly expands the third vision (7,242 lines, c.1376–77); the C-text, a revision of B (7,357 lines, between 1393 and 1398). Most scholars now believe that at least the A- and B-texts are the work of William Langland, whose biography has been deduced from passages in the poem. However, some still hold that the poem is the work of two or even five authors. The popularity of the poem is attested to by the large number of surviving manuscripts and by its many imitators. The 19th-century edition of W. W. Skeat (new ed. 1954) is still standard; the best modern versions are those of Donald Attwater (1930) and H. W. Wells (1935).


See studies by E. T. Donaldson (1955; and 1949, repr. 1966), M. W. Bloomfield (1962), S. S. Hussey, ed. (1969), E. D. Kirk (1972), J. M. Bowers (1986), A. V. Schmidt (1987), and M. F. Vaughan (2011).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Langland, William


Born circa 1330 in Cleobury Mortymer, Shropshire; died circa 1400. English poet. A cleric in minor orders, Langland spoke out against the existing social structure on the eve of the peasant uprising of 1381.

Langland’s allegorical narrative poem, Piers Plowman (1362), is probably his only work. It is known in three versions (1370, c. 1377, and c. 1393). The poem was written in traditional alliterative unrhymed verse. Interest in it grew during the Reformation and the years of the English Bourgeois Revolution of the 17th century. J. Bunyan wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress under the influence of the poem.


The Vision of William Concerning Piers the Plowman in Three Parallel Texts, Together With Richard the Redeless, vols. 1–2. Edited by W. W. Skeat. London, 1924.
In Russian translation:
Videnie Uil’iama o Petre Pakhare. Introduction by D. M. Petrushevskii. Moscow-Leningrad, 1941.


Alekseev, M. P. Iz istorii angliiskoi literatury. Moscow, 1960. (See name index.)
Donaldson, E. T. Piers the Plowman: The C-text and Its Poet. New Haven, 1949.
Fowler, D. C. Piers the Plowman: Literary Relations of the A and B Texts. Seattle, 1961.
Robertson D. W., and B. F. Huppe. Piers Plowman and Scriptural Tradition. New York, 1969.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Schmidt, ed., William Langland Piers Plowman: A Parallel-Text Edition of the A, B, C and Z Versions, rev.
This attitude allows him to contentiously describe William Langland as "the city's most important Edwardian author" (4), despite the fact that his production lasted until ca.
Clutterbuck's book can be read either as a survey that "chronicles the movement of serious public, religious poetry away from encounter with God" (203) proceeding from Middle English poetry through William Langland and John Donne to John Milton, or as four stand-alone studies.
William Langland. Elizabeth Robertson and Stephen H.
This iconography was adopted by English estates satirists in the late fourteenth century, most clearly by William Langland and Geoffrey Chaucer.
It transpires that William Langland alone passes the test set by Aers--a test grounded in a curious holy alliance between Archbishop Rowan Williams and St Thomas Aquinas--which is whether the given medieval writer could think of the Church, founded amidst betrayal and dependent on flawed ministers, as 'a community both immersed in sin and yet also the divine gift in which [the writer] received the sacraments' (p.
There is a reference to Robin Hood in William Langland's Piers Ploughman, a story written in 1370.
English poet William Langland, who predicted that lack of courtesy would be a mark of the antichrist, according to Saward in Catholic World Report, December 1994, issued a call to arms as it were: by the "gentle weapons" of Christian courtesy, such as reverence for the Blessed Sacrament, devotion to Our Lady, charity and chastity, can discourtesy be defeated.
Lewis, from Karl Marx to Dante, from Hildegard of Bingen to William Langland, in an attempt to bring out the major tenants of Christian belief about heaven.
(14) William Langland, Piers Plowman: The A Version, ed.
Particularly noteworthy choices are Cynewulf's Anglo Saxon "Ascension" for Ascension Day, William Langland's "The Vision of Holy Church" for Proper 17, Emily Dickinson's "Unto Me?" and "The Blunder is to Estimate" for the Third Sunday of Easter, D.
At various points he calls upon, to select only a few of almost countless examples, the twelfth-century moralist Peter the Chanter, Dante's thirteenth-century friend Brunetto Latini, the fourteenth-century poets William Langland and Geoffrey Chaucer, the fifteenth-century essayists Leon Battista Alberti and Christine de Pizan and the philosopher Marsilio Ficino, and the sixteenth-century satirists Francois Rabelais and Pietro Aretino.