Hares, Rabbits, Pheasants: Piers Plowman and William Longewille, a Norfolk Rebel in 1381

Sebastian Sobecki*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    4 Citations (Scopus)


    Since Piers Plowman occupies a central place in the study of medieval English literature, much attention has been paid to the vexed question of the poem's authorship. This justified interest in revealing the human agent behind the family of interrelated versions of the poem, usually named A, B, and C, continues to feed a vibrant industry of speculative scholarship on the person behind the poem. This article reassesses the relevance of the 'Langland' myth for the contemporary reception of the poem, and argues that medieval audiences of the B Version associated the work with a 'Long Will' author-persona. In this context, the case of a previously unnoticed Norfolk poacher in the weeks leading up to the 1381 rising, a William Longewille, and his encroachment on the estate of the former sheriff and tax collector Richard Holdych echo the Ploughing of the Half-Acre in Piers Plowman, in particular as it is presented in the B Version of the poem. As a result, this article proposes that both the A and B Versions of the poem may have been available to (some of) the rebels of 1381, and that the B Version may have circulated in Norfolk along Cluniac and Benedictine networks before and after the unrest.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)216-236
    Number of pages21
    JournalThe Review of English Studies
    Issue number289
    Early online date15-Dec-2017
    Publication statusPublished - Apr-2018


    • REVOLT
    • CROWN

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