Piers Plowman by William Langland

I. About the Author:

conjectures based on an ambiguous passage in C text Probably an educated man intending to enter the Church.

II. About the Text:

1. A dream vision: a story under the guise that the narrator has dreamed it.

2. An Allegory: a form suspected to be innate to dreams.

An extended metaphor in which characters, actions, scenes of a story are equated with definite moral, religious, social, political meanings: a form of representing abstract ideas in concrete forms—characters as personification of abstract qualities, for example.

3. Alliterative in verse form.

4. Organized in the format of “passus”—step in Latin.

5. Popularity till the 16th century: its evocation in the Peasant’s Revolt in 1381.

6. Controversial in its theological positions: considered a forerunner or prophesy of English Reformation.

III. Theme:

1. A soul’s long allegorical quest for the answer to a key Christian question: “How one may save his soul?”—A quest unfolded at both individual and universal levels.
(1) Starting from knowledge.

(2) The marriage of Lady Meed to False over the protests of Conscience.

(3) Reason preaching and Repentance hearing confessions of Seven Deadly Sins.

(4) Hope inspiring people to search for Truth (first appearance of Piers Plowman).

(5) Piers pointing out the way and demanding the pilgrims to plow the half acre (Langland’s conception of an ideal community).

(6) Transformation of Piers to Christ in Passus 18: Christ’s crucifixion and Harrowing in the Hell with debates among the Four Daughters of God.

2. Satire against the late medieval society: section on the “Field of Folk,” represented in terms if its failure to live up to an ideal society under Christian principles.
(1) Especially savage, indignant satires against ecclesiastic corruption.

(2) Also satire against wealthy laity who failed to relieve the poor of their miseries.

(3) Elements of social realism in the representations of the Seven Deadly Sins.

3. Sympathies with the sufferings of the poor.

IV. Discussion of the Text:

1. The dreamer-narrator’s satire against the late medieval society in “Fair Field of Folk”.

2. The futility of confessions.

3. A tortuous, painful pilgrimage to the Saint Truth: an allegorized account

4. An ideal arrangement of social roles as envisioned by Langland: men farming, women weaving, and the nobles protecting the commons.

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