In Chapter 1 of Opening Up Middle English Manuscripts, we go into detailed study surrounding the content and reproduction of Piers Plowman from scribe to scribe. In viewing these various manuscripts, the question is posed as to whether metrical changes are made by William Langland or Scribe D. It’s possible that the manuscripts in question were actually drafts written by Langland, as our texts says possibly drafted “without alliteration… then worked them up” (OUMEM 73).
If this is true, William Langland’s case study would have some curious implications for the creative writing process of the late fourteenth century. For one thing, it would mean that at least Langland was more preoccupied with the story he was telling than the poem’s metrical effects. Were Langland and other authors trapped in the popular genre of their era? Surely the intellectual community of Britain during this time was exposed to non-rhyming prose, whether it was verbal story telling or copies of ancient Greek prose. Of course, we do not have enough information to comment on the intentions behind Langland’s writing process, because he may have always intended for poetry to carry the final product. However, the question is worth asking considering the content of his poem; a clear message is being sent about the church as a corrupt governing body, so it would be interesting to see if poetry was the necessary medium for reaching a wider audience, while the content carries the weight.