Journal Title

Modern Philology

Publication Date



The fourteenth-century poem Wynnere and Wastoure (ca. 1352–70) is staged as a dream vision in which the narrator sees two opposing armies, led by the allegorical figures Wynnere and Wastoure, preparing for battle. Interrupting them, a king demands that the leaders of these groups explain their conflict so that he may resolve it. The rest of the text is thus staged as a debate between the personification Wynnere, who explains that he supports saving money and conserving possessions, and his enemy Wastoure, who presents his case for spending money and consuming possessions. Rather than ending with a straightforward judgment regarding these men's differences, Wynnere and Wastoure ultimately complicates the ethics of winning and wasting; by the poem's conclusion, readers are left with ambiguous and contradictory characterizations of these two men and lack a definitive judgment from the king regarding their antithetical financial beliefs. Not only are the values of Wynnere's and Wastoure's actions ultimately incoherent, the poem's generic register itself remains elusive as it moves among a number of disparate modes of genre and constantly slips between universal and topical concerns.


Poetry; Literature and history

Publication Information

© 2010, University of Chicago Press.See original published version at





Document Type

Journal Article