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William Langland: Poems & Style

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  • 0:00 Who Was William Langland?
  • 0:35 Works of Literature
  • 2:14 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shamekia Thomas

Shamekia has taught English at the secondary level and has her doctoral degree in clinical psychology.

William Langland is a popular Middle English author most popularly known for the poem 'The Vision of Piers Plowman'. Learn more about William Langland's background and writing style and test your knowledge with a quiz.

Who Was William Langland?

William Langland was born around 1330 and died around 1400. He is one of the most popular authors from the Middle English period of literature because of his work on alliterative poetry. Details about William Langland's life are scarce. He is thought to be from Malvern Hills in Worcestershire, England. He is also thought to have been educated at the Benedictine school in Great Malvern. He made money by singing at the funerals of rich men. He also wrote poetry to make money and is thought to be the author of The Vision of Piers Plowman, a poem with a number of different religious messages.

Works of Literature

William Langland's most popular work is the poem The Visions of Piers Plowman. Langland grew up poor and the poem Piers Plowman explains what life was like for ordinary individuals in 14-century England. The poem was written in a way that everyone, despite their level of religious knowledge, could understand. It makes negative judgments about the nobility and heads of the church during the time. It was written in West Midland dialect and tells the story of a countryman named Piers. Langland is thought to represent the narrator from Piers Plowman, the dreamer.

The first version of The Vision of Piers Plowman was written in 1362. Langland constantly revised the poem and additional versions were published in 1377 and 1395. The 'A' version is the earliest and the 'C' and 'B' versions are revised versions. The 'Z' version was taken from versions A and B, which consisted of a prologue and stories about life, the capital sins, the dangers of materialism, and spiritual growth.

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