Piers Plowman by William Langland
A long, religious allegory, Piers Plowman survives in three versions. The large number of manuscripts evidence that the work was popular from the 14th through the 17th century. The work is a dream vision, presented as the author's dream, fantastic and allegorical by nature. It embodies the medieval idea that dreams relay truth in disguise. Piers Plowman accomplishes the following:
1. It provides a history of Christianity according to the Old and New testament. 2. It allegorically represents the Christian life of an individual. 3. It records conflicts of late medieval society, especially A. feudal order of church which was in decay (Langland perhaps influenced the Peasant's Revolt of 1381, as phrases from this work were used in the rhetoric of the rebellion. His work also comments upon Wycliff, an academic philosopher who led a movement against transubstantiation and who posited that the church should consist of a community of believers. Wycliffe's beliefs encouraged a group known as Lollards (mumblers) who argued that scripture should be studied in the vernacular. Lollards were perceived as heretics for some of their more extreme ideas (for example, they claimed that the Pope was the Anti-Christ). Like the Lollards, Langland condemns the wealth of the church, but Langland looks for internal reform and is primarily conservative in his resistance to change). B. shifting strata of social estates. (The medieval notion of three estates-- cleric, nobility, and peasant-- was challenged by the burgeoning bourgeois class. In Langland's day, medieval social structure was quite complex. Langland's "fair field of folk" depicts and satirizes that social structure, particularly pointing out corruptions. As such, it is "estates satire." Langland's view, however, is that the various social estates could live harmoniously if not distracted by Mead, or money. Lady Mead represents the corruption of every...
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