‘To a Lord for a Lettre Leue to Haue’: Lordly Conscience and the Friars in B 20<sup>1</sup>


in Conscience and the Composition of Piers Plowman

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199653768
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741678 | DOI:

Series: Oxford English Monographs

‘To a Lord for a Lettre Leue to Haue’: Lordly Conscience and the Friars in B 201

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This chapter draws on variety of antimendicant sources, from chronicles to Wycliffite polemic, to examine Conscience's struggle with the friars at the end of Piers Plowman. Langland here returns to the theme of retainership central to the debate between Meed and Conscience in passus 3–4 by highlighting the act of patronage by which the friar gains admittance to Unity. The language of retainership used by Conscience in discussing the problems represented by the friars highlights the connection between their corruption of the divine law at the end of the poem and Meed's corruption of the secular law at the beginning. But Conscience ultimately proves ineffectual at the poem's conclusion. He is here transformed into one of those very lords whose consciences, according to antimendicant polemic, are led astray by their friar-confessors.

Keywords: friars; retainers; retinues; antimendicant polemic; penance; confession; contrition; lords; patronage

Chapter.  9241 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Early and Medieval)

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