William Langland: Piers Plowman

(3172 words)
  • Kath Stevenson (Queen's University Belfast)


Unquestionably one of the finest literary works of the Middle Ages, Piers Plowman has a legitimate claim to be regarded as the pre-eminent religious poem in English. The only known work of poet William Langland [1330(?)–1388(?)], Piers Plowman is extant in three, potentially four, distinct versions: conventionally designated as the A, B, C, and Z – texts; and witnessed in over fifty-five manuscripts. Whilst it can be described in the broadest terms as an allegorical dream-vision written in alliterative verse, the poem incessantly challenges the boundaries of generic conventions, and its idiosyncrasies do not readily lend themselves to pat literary classification. The poem's narrative …

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Stevenson, Kath. "Piers Plowman". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 01 April 2008
[http://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=2810, accessed 01 October 2016.]