Article

Piers Plowman

Lawrence Clopper

in Medieval Studies

ISBN: 9780195396584
Published online April 2013 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0161
Piers Plowman

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)
  • Literary Studies (Early and Medieval)
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William Langland or William of Cleobury Mortimer (fl. 1360s–1380s) is the author of Piers Plowman, an allegorical poem (see Allegory) structured as a series of Dream Visions. The poem, narrated by an unnamed speaker usually referred to as the “Dreamer,” relates a series of dreams purportedly had by a person who within the dreams is named “Wille” (see Langland’s Persona). The narrative opens with Wille’s vision of the cosmos described as a hill with a tower on top, a dark dale below with a dungeon, and, in between, a fair field of folk working and wandering as the world asks. An opening dialogue with Dame Holy Church concerning what the vision means initiates a journey through the world Wille experiences (the royal court and the trial of Lady Mede and, through the confessions of the seven deadly sins, life and labor in London) until he meets an idealized plowman, Piers. After an argument with a local priest, Piers suddenly abandons his labors to go on a pilgrimage to Truth. The remainder of the poem in the B- and C-versions describes Wille’s sometimes unfocused journey in pursuit of Dowel, Dobet, and Dobest and then of Piers the Plowman in the interest of his personal salvation. Dating the versions of the poem has proved difficult. There are few topical allusions to guide the process. Some of these are specific enough that they are not under dispute, but there are a number that are open to more than one interpretation. The A-text or A-version was composed c. 1365–early 1370s, underwent at least two revisions, the B-text or B-version (1377–1378) and the C-text or C-version (c. 1380s). The proposed Z-text is said to have antedated A.

Article.  20622 words. 

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500) ; Literary Studies (Early and Medieval) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy ; Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400) ; Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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