Langland and the Rokele family
The gentry background to 'Piers Plowman'
The social and political opinions of the author of Piers Plowman derive from, and reflect, a personal background significantly different from that of Chaucer, Gower or the Pearl-poet. Langland and the Pearl-poet resemble each other in seeming, at first glance, more politically and aesthetically old-fashioned than their two great London contemporaries. And yet, no one has ever addressed the massive evidence of a profound social distance that would have separated ‘William de la Rokele’, at least in his own mind, from the pious author of Patience no less than from the City poets. Much of the evidence for this social chasm is extrinsic to Piers Plowman, but some of it is internal. This new book illuminates that evidence, mainly by supplying some hitherto neglected facts about Langland’s extended family, the Rokeles, and their prominent public role in his own time as well as in the generations that preceded his birth.
Robert Adams is Professor of English at the Sam Houston State U. He has published many scholarly articles on Middle English literature, most of them concerning Piers Plowman, and is former Director of the International Piers Plowman Society.