The Laborer’s Two Bodies

  • Kellie Robertson
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


By 1350, the plague had left much of the English countryside depopulated, and workers were in short supply. The year before, in response to the first outbreaks of plague, the king’s council had passed the Ordinance of Laborers, a law that made it illegal for workers to take advantage of this situation, freezing wages at preplague rates and preventing workers from traveling in search of more lucrative work. Inevitably, tensions between agricultural workers and landowners ran high, and, despite the ordinance, some workers were able to negotiate better terms for themselves. In Oxfordshire, the Abbot of Eynsham was forced to make a new more favorable agreement with his few remaining tenants who had threatened to leave if their demands went unmet. Just a year later, however, conflict erupted again when justices who had assembled to hear violations against the labor ordinance were attacked near Eynsham Abbey. The attackers, behaving like “madmen and men possessed by an evil spirit,” besieged the presiding justice in the abbey and threatened to burn him alive if he failed to surrender all indictments and accusations in his possession.1 Shortly after this incident, the king dispatched William Shareshull, Chief Justice of the King’s Bench, to Oxfordshire to investigate this so-called “rebellion” and punish its perpetrators. Unsurprisingly, when Shareshull opened parliament the following February (the first time parliament had met in three years due to outbreaks of plague), his speech denounced the two greatest problems facing the kingdom: failure to keep the peace and the severe disruption caused by laborers’ unwillingness to serve despite the 1349 ordinance.


Corporal Punishment Labor Regulation Fourteenth Century Grammatical Metaphor Poetic Work 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    CPR, 1348–1350, vol. 8, p. 594. It is clear that villein services in this area were under significant strain from plague mortality as villeins renegotiated more favorable labor services with Eynsham Abbey in 1349; see Eynsham Cartulary, ed. H.E. Salter, 2 vols. (Oxford: Oxford Historical Society, 1907–8), vol. 2, pp. 19–20.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    RP, vol. 2, pp. 225–27. Bertha Putnam, The Place in Legal History of Sir William Shareshull, Chief Justice of the King’s Bench, 1350–1361 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1950), speculates that the Oxford incident was “a factor in leading to the enactment of the more rigid statute of 1351” (p. 147).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Putnam, The Enforcement of the Statutes of Labourers during the First Decade after the Black Plague (New York: Columbia University Press, 1908), p. 10, 12. On the need for the 1351 parliament, see RP, vol. 2, p. 225.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Knighton’s Chronicle, 1337–1396, ed. and trans. G.H. Martin (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), pp. 102–103. All subsequent references refer to this edition.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Knighton, pp. 120–21. Contemporary historians have been kinder to the statute. W.M. Ormrod, “The English Government and the Black Death of 1348–49,” in England in the Fourteenth Century, ed. W.M. Ormrod (Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell & Brewer, 1986), pp. 178–79, asserts that “the labour laws were a good deal more effective in the decade after the first outbreak of the Black Death than they came to be thereafter.”Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    For the wording of the 1349 ordinance, see SR, vol. 1, p. 307. On the precedent-setting nature of the ordinance, see John G. Bellamy, Criminal Law and Society in Late Medieval and Tudor England (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1984). Bellamy describes the radical and anomalous nature of this clause, explaining that “the role of witnesses in common criminal process received clear recognition in statutes only towards the end of the reign of Henry VII” (pp. 34–35). Bellamy speculates that the 1349 preference for two witnesses over the usual jury was due to the fact that the upper class of landowners may have been suspicious that presenting juries may have felt sympathy for the laborers and thus been less likely to report offenses (p. 9).Google Scholar
  7. 9.
    On the continuity of pre- and postplague labor practices, see Anthony Musson, “New Labour Laws, New Remedies? Legal Reaction to the Black Death ‘Crisis,’” in Fourteenth Century England I, ed. Nigel Saul (Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell & Brewer, 2000), esp. pp. 76–77. Musson’s argument seeks to redress views like those put forward by R.C. Palmer who believes that the postplague labor market was radically different from the preplague one English Law in the Age of the Black Death, 1348–1381: A Transformation of Governance and Law [Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1993]).Google Scholar
  8. 11.
    See John Bellamy, Crime and Public Order in England in the Later Middle Ages (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973), p. 182.Google Scholar
  9. For the premedieval history of branding, see C.P. Jones, “Stigma: Tattooing and Branding in Graeco-Roman Antiquity,” Journal of Roman Studies 11 (1987): 139–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 12.
    For example, eight heretics were branded at St. Paul’s Cross in London in 1499. See Chronicles of London, ed. Charles Lethbridge Kingsford (1905; repr. Dursley, Gloucestershire: Alan Sutton, 1977), p. 226.Google Scholar
  11. Shannon McSheffrey, Gender and Heresy: Women and Men in Lollard Communities, 1420–1530 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995), has documented several instances of heretic branding in this time period (pp. 31, 73). Interestingly, in at least one 1495 instance of Lollard branding cited by McSheffrey, the Latin term for branded heretics is “signati” (p. 31). This suggests to me that the body is seen by ecclesiastical authorities as a text to the extent that its identity is being “sealed” through the brand.Google Scholar
  12. 13.
    Raphael Holinshed, Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland, 6 vols. (1586; repr. New York: Ames Press, 1965), pp. 310–13. Several sixteenth-century examples of penal branding can be found during the reign of Edward VI: for example, the statute of vagabonds authorized the branding of a “V” on the breast of a runaway slave; church brawlers were liable to be branded on the cheek with the letter “F” for “fraym1829. Seaker.”Google Scholar
  13. Branding was abolished as a form of punishment in Britain only in e William Andrews, Bygone Punishments (London: William Andrews and Co., 1899), pp. 138–42.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Modern Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Vintage Books, 1979), pp. 25–26.Google Scholar
  15. 17.
    On the rebels’ relation to literate culture, see Susan Crane, “The Writing Lesson of 1381,” in Chaucer’s England: Literature in Historical Context, ed. Barbara Hanawalt (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992), pp. 201–21. Steven Justice also discusses the symbolic import of the rebels’ document burning in Writing and Rebellion: England in 1381 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), esp. pp. 150–56. Such instances of peasant appropriation of documentary culture suggest that the field of knowledge constituted by the labor laws (and the power relations it represents) was not exclusively unidirectional.Google Scholar
  16. 18.
    On the problematic of iterability in language, see Jacques Derrida, “Signature Event Context,” in Limited Inc (Evanston, IL.: Northwestern University Press, 1988), pp. 1–23.Google Scholar
  17. 19.
    For the text of the 1349 ordinance, see SR, vol. 1, pp. 307–8. For a discussion of the penalties under this ordinance, particularly the system of excess fines, see Putnam, Enforcement, pp. 82–85. On difficulties in enforcing the ordinance, see L.R. Poos, “The Social Context of Statute of Labourers Enforcement,” Law and History Review 1 (1983): 27–52, esp. pp. 29–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 20.
    Legal historian S.F.C. Milsom, Historical Foundations of the Common Law, 2nd ed. (London: Butterworths, 1981) describes how the labor statutes created confusion over the difference between agricultural services as obligation/status and as contract: “The narrow concept of covenant was the product of a society in which most obligations were seen as flowing from tenure or status. This was obviously the case with agricultural services. The ploughman who did not plough would be summoned to his lord’s court as a wrongdoer long before anyone would think of suing him as an equal in contract….Grants had been precisely to create obligations for service, to plough or to fight; and the only common arrangement concerning land which has sounded in covenant was the term of years” (p. 325).Google Scholar
  19. 21.
    On the difference between the older customs and bylaws (which had treated the master-servant relation as a status) and the labor laws (which showed an ambivalent interest in the contractual nature of the relation), see William Holdsworth, A History of English Law, 16 vols. (1903; repr. London: Methuen, 1966), vol. 2, pp. 459–63.Google Scholar
  20. 22.
    In 1351, the commons petitioned the king for corporal punishment because laborers “ne ount regard a fynes ne a redemptions, mes fount de jour en autre pire ou pis” (KP, vol. 2, p. 227). On the 1361 statute, see 34 Edw. III, c 9–10 (SR, vol. 2, pp. 366–67). On the 1413 legislation, see Chris Given-Wilson, “Service, Serfdom and English Labour Legislation, 1350–1500,” in Concepts and Patterns of Service in the Latter Middle Ages, ed. Anne Curry and Elizabeth Matthew (Woodbridge, UK: Boydell Press, 2000), p. 35.Google Scholar
  21. 23.
    For the Essex case, see Elizabeth Furber, ed., Essex Sessions of the Peace, 1351, 1377–1379, Essex Archaeological Society, Occasional Publications 3 (Colchester: Essex Archaeological Society, 1953), p. 106. On the frequency of such liberation tactics, see Putnam, Enforcement, p. 181.Google Scholar
  22. 25.
    The Anonimalle Chronicle, ed. V.H. Galbraith (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1927), pp. 144–45.Google Scholar
  23. 26.
    RP, vol. 2, p. 296. On the effects of the 1368 legislation, see Bertha Putnam, Proceedings before the Justices of the Peace, Edward III to Richard III (London: Spottiswoode, Bailantyne and Co., 1938), p. xxv. That the third estate recognized this ambivalence about the difference between status and contractual labor (and that they saw corporal punishment as a symptom of the former) is witnessed by the 1381 rebels’ demand that “there should be no law but the law of Winchester” (Anonimalle, p. 147). This judicial reform would have effectively repealed the 1361 statute that introduced the new provision of branding and the penalty of outlawry.Google Scholar
  24. On this rebel demand, see Alan Harding, “The Revolt Against the Justices,” in R.H. Hilton and T.H. Aston, eds., The English Rising of 1381 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1984), pp. 165–93.Google Scholar
  25. 28.
    This is the explanation offered by Joseph Dahmus, William Courtenay, Archbishop of Canterbury 1381–1396 (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1966), p. 223. On the controversy with the Bishop of Salisbury over rights of visitation, see Dahmus, p. 149. On Courtenay’s involvement (along with Arundel) in the dispute over the collection of a papal subsidy blocked by Richard II and Parliament, see Dahmus, p. 180.Google Scholar
  26. This episode seems even more unusual if compared with the types of entries found in a contemporary bishop’s register, The Register of John Waltham, Bishop of Salisbury, 1388–1395, ed. T.C.B. Timmins, Canterbury and York Society (Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell Press, 1994). Most of the offenses in Waltham’s register are social and moral ones: tithe-dodgers, suspected heretics, adulterers, polygamists, or incapable priests. The labor offense of Courtenay’s carters seems to be a different category of charge, one found less frequently in episcopal registers.Google Scholar
  27. 30.
    R.A.L. Smith, Canterbury Cathedral Priory: A Study in Monastic Administration (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1943), notes that “while many labor services (like ploughing or mowing) on Kentish manors in the fourteenth century could be commuted for money rents, the exception to this general rule was carrying services, however. This was seen to be an essential service since it brought food to the monks household and carried waste hence” (pp. 122–23).Google Scholar
  28. 31.
    See W.E. Flaherty, “The Great Rebellion in Kent of 1381,” Archaeologia Cantiana 3 (1860): 90–96 [65–96].Google Scholar
  29. 32.
    “Sacratum capud archiepiscopi in medio et eminenciori loco fixerunt, et ut specialius a ceteris capitibus agnosceretur capellam rubeam super capud cum clavo fixerunt”; see The Westminster Chronicle, ed. and trans. L.C. Hector and Barbara F. Harvey (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982), pp. 6–7.Google Scholar
  30. 34.
    On labor obligations in Wingham, see F.R.H. Du Boulay, The Lordship of Canterbury: An Essay on Medieval Society (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1966), p. 159.Google Scholar
  31. 35.
    Ernst Kantorowicz, The King’s Two Bodies: A Study in Medieval Political Theory (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1957), p. 87.Google Scholar
  32. 37.
    Frederick Pollock and Frederic William Maitland, The History of English Law, 2nd ed., 2 vols. (1895; repr. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1968), vol. 2, p. 125.Google Scholar
  33. 39.
    Henry de Bracton, De legibus et consuetudinibus angliae [On the laws and customs of England], ed. George E. Woodbine and trans. Samuel E. Thorne, 2 vols., Seiden Society (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1968), vol. 1, pp. 158–59.Google Scholar
  34. 41.
    On the symbolic significance of the plowman in the fourteenth-century manorial economy, see Michael Camille, Mirror in Parchment: The Luttrell Psalter and the Making of Medieval England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), p. 186. Late-fourteenth-century preachers like Thomas Wimbledon frequently cited the parable of the vineyard (Matthew 20: 1–10), which equated positive labor with the good society.Google Scholar
  35. See Wimbledon’s Sermon: Redde Rationem Villicationis Tue, ed. Ione Kemp Knight, Duquesne Studies, Philological Series 9 (Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne University Press, 1967).Google Scholar
  36. For a discussion of the social benefits of manual labor in late-medieval florilegia and summa predicantium, see G.R. Owst, Literature and Pulpit in Medieval England (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1933), esp. pp. 568–76.Google Scholar
  37. 42.
    For Jacques Le Goff s views, see Time, Work, and Culture in the Middle Ages, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), pp. 83–86. Aaron Gurevich discusses peasant labor in “Oral and Written Culture of the Middle Ages: Two ‘Peasant Visions’ of the Late Twelfth Centuries,” in Historical Anthropology of the Middle Ages, ed. Jana Howlett (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), pp. 50–64;Google Scholar
  38. and in Categories of Medieval Culture, trans. G.L. Campbell (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1985), pp. 264–65. Paul Freedman compares Le Goff and Gurevich on this subject in Images of the Medieval Peasant (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999), pp. 24–25.Google Scholar
  39. 43.
    The so-called “Three Orders” model of society was most commonly articulated as “those who pray, those who fight, and those who work.” Freedman argues that the Three Orders scheme relied on a model of mutuality and that “implicit within the idea of mutuality is the notion that labor has a merit at least comparable to that of spiritual and physical protection” though “labor never lost its lowly representation as ‘servile’” (Images, pp. 24–25). The foundational discussion of the Three Orders is found in Georges Duby, The Three Orders: Feudal Society Imagined, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980). On the Three Orders as the result of the failure of the Cistercian ideal of monastic labor,Google Scholar
  40. see William Ovitt, The Restoration of Perfection: Labor and Technology in Medieval Culture (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1987), pp. 137–63.Google Scholar
  41. 45.
    The plowman does not get a portrait until Caxton’s second edition, and there it only repeats the woodcut of the parson, his brother (see STC 5083). On this mix-up, see Betsy Bowden, “Visual Portraits of the Canterbury Pilgrims, 1484 (?)-1809,” in The Ellesmere Chaucer: Essays in Interpretation, eds. Martin Stevens and Daniel Woodward (San Marino, CA.: Huntington Library, 1995), pp. 171–204.Google Scholar
  42. 46.
    On the pardoner’s speaking body, see Caroline Dinshaw, “Eunuch Hermeneutics,” in Chaucer’s Sexual Poetics (Madison, WI.: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989), pp. 156–84;Google Scholar
  43. and Glenn Burger, “Kissing the Pardoner,” PMLA 107 (1992): 1143–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. 47.
    On the relation of nature and work in Books of Hours, see John Harthan, The Book of Hours, with a Historical Survey and Commentary (New York: Park Lane, 1977), and Janet Backhouse, Books of Hours (London: British Library, 1985).Google Scholar
  45. 48.
    On the relation between the manuscript illumination and the material conditions of the Luttrell estate, see Camille, Mirror, pp. 198–99. For a helpful summary of arguments about dating the Luttrell Psalter, see Richard K. Emmerson and P.J.P. Goldberg, “‘The Lord Geoffrey had me made’: Lordship and Labour in the Luttrell Psalter” in The Problem of Labour in Fourteenth-Century England, eds. James Bothwell, P.J.P. Goldberg and W.M. Ormrod (York: York Medieval Press, 2000), pp. 346–48. Emmerson and Goldberg date the manuscript to the 1340s.Google Scholar
  46. For earlier discussions of the manuscript’s genesis, see Eric G. Millar, The Luttrell Psalter (London: British Museum, 1932)Google Scholar
  47. and Janet Backhouse, The Luttrell Psalter (London: British Library, 1989).Google Scholar
  48. 50.
    For the text of the 1363 sumptuary laws, see 37 Edw. III, c 14 in SR, vol. 1, pp. 381–82. For a discussion of these laws, see Frances Elizabeth Baldwin, Sumptuary Legislation and Personal Regulation in England (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1926), pp. 50–51. On the iconography of European peasant clothing, see Gerhard Jaritz, “The Material Culture of the Peasantry in the Late Middle Ages: ‘Image’ and ‘Reality’” in Agriculture in the Middle Ages: Technology, Practice and Representation, ed. Del Sweeney (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995), pp. 163–91.Google Scholar
  49. 53.
    James C. Webster, The Labors of the Months in Antique and Mediaeval Art to the end of the Twelfth Century (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1938), p. 88.Google Scholar
  50. J. Fowler, “On Medieval Representations of the Months and Seasons,” Archaeologia 44 (1873): 137–224, discusses continental examples of church interiors that depict the labors of the months alongside their appropriate astrological symbols.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. On this iconography, see also Jonathan Alexander, “Labeur and paresse: Ideological Representations of Medieval Peasant Labor,” Art Bulletin 72 (1990): 443–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. 54.
    Maisie Anderson, History and Imagery in English Parish Churches (London: Murray, 1971), p. 236, briefly discusses the iconography of the Blythburgh bench ends, noting the difficulty of assigning particular labels to individual bench ends.Google Scholar
  53. 56.
    On Hopton and the rebuilding of Blythburgh church, see Colin Richmond, John Hopton: A Fifteenth Century Suffolk Gentleman (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1981), pp. 156–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. 58.
    This version of Walstan’s life comes from Nova Legenda Anglie: as collected by John Tynemouth, John Capgrave and others, and first printed, with New Lives, by Wynkyn de Worde, ed. Carl Horstmann, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1901), vol. 2, pp. 412–15.Google Scholar
  55. 59.
    Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400–1580 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992), p. 205.Google Scholar
  56. 61.
    Carol Twinch, In Search of St. Walstan (Lavenham, Suffolk: Lavenham Press, 1995), describes the re-building of the Walstan shrine in 1460, and cites late-fifteenth-century bequests to the Chapel and Guild of St. Walstan at Bawburgh (p. 50). Appendix I of her book is a gazetteer of Walstan images (pp. 137–53); nine of the extant images date from the fifteenth century, while the remaining three date from the early sixteenth century.Google Scholar
  57. On the dating of the Latin and Middle English lives of Walstan, see M.R. James, “Lives of St. Walstan,” Norfolk Archaeology 19 (1917): 238–67.Google Scholar
  58. 68.
    William Caxton, The Game and Playe of the Chesse, 1474. A verbatim Reprint of the First Edition, intro. by William E.A. Axon (London: Elliot Stock, 1883), p. 79. Caxton tells this story as a monitory warning to contemporary laborers who do not give their masters their due. On the 1446 legislation, see RP, vol. 5, p. 112 and SR, vol. 2, p. 337.Google Scholar
  59. 69.
    A recent discussion of immaterial labor can be found in Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000), esp. pp. 28–30, 289–94.Google Scholar
  60. 70.
    See E.G. Kimball, Rolls of the Gloucestershire Sessions of the Peace, 1361–98, Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society 62 (1947), p. 12.Google Scholar
  61. See also Bertha Putnam, “Maximum wage-laws for priests after the black death, 1348–1381,” American Historical Review 21 (1915–1916): 12–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. 71.
    Quoted in Rosemary Horrox, trans. and ed., The Black Death (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1994), pp. 306–308. This constitution was originally issued in 1350 by Archbishop Islip; however, it was reissued verbatim in 1362 by Islip’s successor, Simon Sudbury. Similar concerns are found in a 1349 letter from Bishop of Rochester to one of his archdeacons (Horrox, p. 290). This concern that parsons and parish priests were leaving cure of souls also appears in the C-version of Piers Plowman, Prologue, 11. 81–94.Google Scholar
  63. 74.
    This anxiety emerges in the later poetry of both Chaucer and Langland where each stages himself as the object of a labor inquiry. It is no coincidence that both poets do this in or around 1388, the year that the most far-reaching revisions of the labor statutes were passed. For a discussion of Chaucer’s relation to the labor statutes, see chapter 3 below. On Langland, see below and Anne Middleton, “Acts of Vagrancy: The C Version ‘Autobiography’ and the Statute of 1388,” in Steven Justice and Kathryn Kerby-Fulton, eds., Written Work: Langland, Labor, and Authorship (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997), pp. 208–317.Google Scholar
  64. 76.
    11. 2994–3001, in G.V. Smithers, ed., Havelock (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987). The poem is generally dated ca. 1300–25.Google Scholar
  65. 78.
    The poem’s most recent editor has argued for a date of ca. 1352–70. For a summary of the dating arguments, see Wynnere and Wastoure, ed. Stephanie Trigg, EETS 297 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), pp. xxii–xxvii. All references to the poem refer to this edition.Google Scholar
  66. 79.
    John Scattergood, “Winner and Waster and the Mid-fourteenth Century Economy,” in The Writer as Witness: Literature as Historical Evidence, ed. Tom Dunne (Cork: Cork University Press, 1987), esp. pp. 51–53.Google Scholar
  67. 80.
    Lois Roney, “Winner and Waster’s ‘Wyse Wordes’: Teaching Economics and Nationalism in Fourteenth-Century England,” Speculum 69 (1994): 1072.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. 81.
    Maura Nolan, “‘With Tresone Within’: Wynnere and Wastoure, Chivalric Self-Representation, and the Law,” JMRS 26 (1996): 1–28.Google Scholar
  69. 82.
    D. Vance Smith, “The Visible Investments of Winning and Wasting,” chapter 3 in Arts of Possession: the Middle English Household Imaginary (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003), pp. 72–107.Google Scholar
  70. 85.
    On the 1358 incident, see KB 27/413, Rex m. 20; discussed in Putnam, Place in Legal History, p. 148. We have a record of a previous incident involving Shareshull in 1344: when Shareshull had finished investigating the death of a king’s servant in Ipswich and departed, some suspects in the case regrouped on the steps of the town hall and “caused proclamation to be made that William of Shareshull was to appear before them under penalty of a hundred pounds and William of Notton under penalty of forty pounds”; Shareshull was later to frame the 1349 ordinance and Notton to help him enforce it. See G.O. Sayles, ed., Select Cases in the Court of the King’s Bench under Edward III, vol. 6, Seiden Society 82 (London: Bernard Quaritch, 1965), pp. 37–38.Google Scholar
  71. 90.
    See, for instance, Thomas L. Reed, Middle English Debate Poetry and the Aesthetics of Irresolution (Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 1990), pp. 261–93, esp. p. 286. Similarly, Nicolas Jacobs sees the dream debate as opposing a rising mercantile ideology (embodied in Wynnere’s arguments) to “an old-fashioned, essentially feudal and rural social order” (embodied in Wastoure). Jacobs sees the prologue’s poetic problems as a direct result of Wastoure’s waning influence and therefore concludes that the poet is more sympathetic to Wastoure (“The Typology of Debate and the Interpretation of Wynnere and Wastoure,” Review of English Studies, n.s. 36 [1985]: 496 [481–500]). My argument, on the other hand, is more similar to Lois Roney’s which sees in the dream vision debate national (and even international) level economic policy rather than just household prescriptions for contemporary economic problems (Roney, pp. 1084–86).Google Scholar
  72. 91.
    Pierre Bourdieu, “The Production of Belief: Contribution to an Economy of Symbolic Goods,” in The Field of Cultural Production (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993), p. 74.Google Scholar
  73. 92.
    Derek Pearsall, Piers Plowman: An edition of the C-text, York Medieval Texts, 2nd ser. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978), notes that, not only is more space given to this problem in the C-version but, “the hostility to ‘minstrels’ is throughout C more clear-cut than in AB” (p. 29, n. 1. 35). All citations from the poem refer to this edition.Google Scholar
  74. 93.
    The relevant passages in the C-version of Piers Plowman include 7. 82–119, 8. 48–52, 9. 128–33, 11. 31–35 and 15. 194–216. On the topic of poetry and minstrelsy, see E. Talbot Donaldson, Piers Plowman: The C-Text and Its Poet, Yale Studies in English 113 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1949), pp. 136–55. Ralph Hanna, “Will’s Work,” in Written Work (eds. Steven Justice and Kathryn Kerby-Fulton), pp. 44–53, argues that Langland sees his own work as “God’s minstrelsy” (a very different attitude than that found in the Prologue to Wynnere and Wastoure).Google Scholar
  75. See also Thorlac Turville-Petre, “The Prologue of Wynnere and Wastoure,” Leeds Studies in English n.s. 18 (1987): 19–29.Google Scholar
  76. 94.
    David Aers, “Justice and Wage-Labor after the Black Death: Some Perplexities for William Langland,” in Faith, Ethics and Church: Writing in England, 1360–1409 (Cambridge, UK: D.S. Brewer, 2000), pp. 56–75. For Middleton’s “Acts of Vagrancy,” see n. 74 above.Google Scholar
  77. Lawrence M. Clopper, “Need Men and Women Labor? Langland’s Wanderer and the Labor Ordinances,” in Barbara Hanawalt, ed., Chaucer’s England (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992), pp. 110–29.Google Scholar
  78. Another consideration of Piers in relation to labor is Derek Pearsall’s “Piers Plowman and the Problem of Labour,” in The Problem of Labour in Fourteenth-Century England, ed. James Bothwell et al. (York: York Medieval Press, 2000), pp. 123–32.Google Scholar
  79. 96.
    The idea of seeing correct social order in syntax is not, of course, Langland’s innovation. As Ernst Curtius, James Murphy, and Martin Irvine (to name just a few) have shown, grammatical thinking was an important category for both classical and medieval thinkers. See Ernst Robert Curtius, European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages, trans. Willard R. Trask (New York, 1963), pp. 436–45;Google Scholar
  80. James J. Murphy, Rhetoric in the Middle Ages: A History of Rhetorical Theory from Saint Augustine to the Renaissance (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974);Google Scholar
  81. and Martin Irvine, The Making of Textual Culture: “Grammatica” and Literary Theory, 350–1100 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1994).Google Scholar
  82. 97.
    See D. Vance Smith, The Book of the Incipit: Beginnings in the Fourteenth Century (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001), p. 159.Google Scholar
  83. According to John Alford, “The Grammatical Metaphor: A Survey of Its Use in the Middle Ages,” Speculum 57 (1982): 728–60, direct relation or grammatical rightness implies moral rightness in late antique grammarians such as Donatus and is continued by many medieval commentators including John of Salisbury and Alain de Lille (746–50).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Margaret Amassian and James Sadowsky, “A Study of the Grammatical Metaphor in Piers Plowman C: IV: 335–409,” Neuphilologische Mitteilungen 72 (1971): 457–76, argue that the metaphor under consideration shows Langland’s mature consideration of the nature of Meed “within a larger view of human affairs as they ought ideally to connect with God” (458). Anne Middleton, “Two infinites: Grammatical Metaphor in Piers Plowman,” ELH 39 (1972): 169–88, sees in Langland’s use of grammatical metaphor in the Banquet scene as attempt “to make human language eschatologi-cally adequate, valid beyond the narrow base in the world and experience upon which the terms of its metaphors rest” (172).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kellie Robertson 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kellie Robertson

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations