The Vision of Piers Plowman (B)

  1. First Vision (Vita begins here).
    1. Prologue.
      1. Vision of the Fair Field.
      2. Rats’ Fable.
    2. Passus I: The Discourse of Holy Church.
      1. the elements of the vision explained: the Tower of Truth, the Murky Vale (or the Castle of Care), and the Folk of the Fair Field.
      2. Truth intended man to use moderation.
      3. But men seek Mede, rather than truth.
      4. King David appointed knights to uphold truth, as Christ appointed the angels.
      5. Fall of the rebel angels.
      6. Charity the highest virtue: superior even to chastity.
    3. The Trial of Mede.
      1. Passus II.
        1. Mede is to be given in marriage to Fals Fikel-tonge.
        2. Theology objects that she was intended to be given to truth.
        3. Mede, Fals, Favel (deceit), Symonye, and Cyvylle (barratry) ride to Westminster on the backs of a sheriff, an assize juror, a flatterer, a pair of summoners.
        4. The king banishes Mede’s companions.
      2. Passus III.
        1. Mede distributes largesse to the clerks and clergyman at the king’s court.
        2. Mede makes a friar her confessor and pander.
        3. Though Mede has acted foolishly, the king would wed her to Conscience, but he will have none of her, because she gives herself indiscriminately.
        4. Mede defends herself, claiming that her rewards are necessary to the maintenance of civil and ecclesiastical government.
        5. Conscience distinguishes between eternal rewards such as God bestows on the righteous, and the temporal rewards sought by usurers and profiteering merchants.
        6. Conscience, taught by Kynde Wit, speaks of a time when Reason, not Mede, shall reign on the earth.
      3. Passus IV.
        1. The king sends Conscience to fetch Reason, who rides to court on his saddle, Suffre-til-I-se-my-tyme, accompanied by Cato his squire and Tomme Trewe.
        2. Though Warren Wysdom and Witty would have Reason advise them how to run the exchequer, Reason is not interested in their affairs and rides on.
        3. Pees presents a complaint to parliament, complaining of the injuries Wrong has done to him.
        4. Mede offers to pay a fine for what Wrong has done, but though this would satisfy Pees, the king, advised by Reason, will have none of it
        5. The king observes that Mede’s corruption of the law has frequently hurt him financially, and vows to be guided by Reason and Conscience.
  2. Second Vision: The Quest for St. Truth Begins.
    1. Passus V.
      1. Reason shows that the plague was a punishment for sin.
      2. Pageant of the Seven Deadly Sins.
      3. Each sinner repents, and must make restitution.
      4. There are many pilgrims who have never met with St. Truth in their travels.
      5. Piers Plowman appears, and briefly explains the way to the Tower where Truth dwells.
      6. Friars do not preach the way to St. Truth, and though Piers will serve as guide to Truth’s Tower, a pardoner and a prostitute decide to make their way there by means of indulgences.
    2. Passus VI: The Half-Acre.
      1. Before they set out to find St. Truth, Piers requires the company to help him plow and sow a half-acre of ground.
      2. The knight’s job is to protect the Church and laboring-folk from predators and wasters; Piers, in return, will plow for him; ultimately, death will dissolve the distinction between noble and knave.
      3. Piers’ work at the plow is a pilgrimage.
      4. Those who will not work would steal what Piers earned; the knight comes to his aid.
      5. Hunger chastens the wasters.
        1. Beggars should be given coarse, not fine food, as an incentive to labor.
        2. Those who feign lameness or blindless are instantly "cured" when they learn that Piers will not feed them unless they work.
        3. Most illnesses arise out of surfeit, or gluttony.
        4. There is little food before harvest-time for the laborer: the "hungry gap" is almost inevitably followed by a period of surfeit and gluttony, when harvesters demand high wages.
      6. Piers prophesies a coming famine.
    3. Passus VII: Piers’ Pardon.
      1. Truth gives Piers and his heirs a pardon, "a pena et a culpa."
      2. Dishonest merchants should donate future profits to public works and charity.
      3. Poverty.
        1. They should not beg who can work.
        2. Almsgiving commended.
        3. Illegitimacy amongst the poor.
      4. For the lame and the helpless, purgatory is here on earth.
      5. Piers vows to live a more contemplative life.
      6. The terms of Piers’ pardon: Et qui bona egerunt ibunt in vitam eternam; / Qui vero mala, in ignem eternum.
        1. A priest discounts the value of this simple, unlearned document.
        2. Angry, Piers tears the paper on which it is written.
    4. The sound of their argument wakes the dreamer.
      1. He considers that righteous living ("Dowel") is more efficacious than ecclesiastical pardon,.
      2. Though he maintains that the pope has authority to pardon sins.
  3. Third Vision: The Quest for Dowel (Visio begins here).
    1. Passus VIII.
      1. Still waking, the dreamer goes abroad in search of Dowel.
      2. He meets two friars, who claim that Dowel dwells always with them.
        1. True, even good men are not always righteous.
        2. Like a boat in a choppy sea, the flesh is hard pressed by the devil and the temptations of the world, so that venial sin is inevitable.
        3. But God gave man free will.
      3. The dreamer falls asleep again, and meets Thought, his unnoticed companion of seven years’time.
        1. According to Thought, Dowel = just living; Dobet = charitable living, religious orders; Dobest = bishopric.
        2. These three advise the king.
        3. But Thought cannot say where Dowel, Dobet, and Dobest are to be found; they discuss the whole matter for three days.
        4. Thought seeks Wit’s counsel on behalf of the dreamer (here identified as Will).
    2. Passus IX: Wit interpets Dowel, Dobet, and Dobest.
      1. Kynde (= God, the Creator) set up his beloved Anima in the castle of Caro, which he compounded of the four elements.
      2. She is guarded there by Dowel, served by Dobet (Dowel’s daughter), and taught by Dobest (the bishop).
      3. Inwit (?conscience).
        1. Inwit rules them all as constable of the castle.
        2. Inwit has five sons by his first wife: Se-wel, Sey-wel, Here-wel, Werch-wel-with-thyn-hand, and Godefray Go-wel.
        3. Holy Church should provide for them that lack Inwit: orphans, widows, madmen, and helpless maidens.
      4. Dowel does right; Dobet does right for love rather than for fear of punishment; Dobest does not sin with his tongue.
      5. Dowel marries.
        1. The begetting of Cain.
        2. Cain and Seth’s offspring intermarry against God’s will: the Flood results.
        3. Marry for love and virtue, not for wealth.
        4. Virgins should marry with virgins and produce children; widowers should marry widows.
        5. Better to marry than to burn; it is good that each mean should have his own wife on account of fornication.
        6. Bastards are dangerous to society.
      6. More interpretations of Dowel, Dobet, and Dobest.
        1. Dowel obeys the law, Dobet loves his enemies, Dobest cares for young and old.
        2. Dowel fears God, Dobet endures, Dobest conquers pride, the root of the deadly sins.
    3. Passus X.
      1. The Discourse of Dame Studie, Wit’s Wife.
        1. Wisdom is not valued now, save where it can be used to pervert justice or gain wealth.
        2. Degenerate entertainers are paid well, while faithful preachers are ignored, and the poor go hungry. .
        3. Rich men should maintain large household staffs, to provide jobs.
        4. Paid fools (?friars) pose theological riddles, and even deny Original Sin.
        5. But fine distinctions are vain save to him that lives righteously already.
        6. The dreamer devotes himself to Dame Studie, who sends him to Clergie and his new wife Scripture.
        7. The arts fostered by Studie, some of which are useful and some of which are dangerous.
        8. Theology is vain where love is absent.
      2. The Counsel of Clergie.
        1. There is no merit in the faith that approves what reason demonstrates.
        2. The life of the Christian teacher should be blameless.
        3. Monks and nuns should stay in their cloisters, not go about like lords.
        4. One day a king will purge the clergy and alienate Church lands that have been misused.
        5. Riches a hindrance to salvation.
        6. Death-bed repentance will not avail the rich "Christian" who ignores the poor at his gate.
      3. Will observes that learned men are often damned, but "lewed" men are saved if they believe, even where they do not comprehend.
    4. Passus XI.
      1. Scripture (Clergie’s wife) observes that many people know many things but know not themselves.
      2. Inset dream:
        1. Fortune shows Will the world
        2. The lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes promise to satisfy Will as long as he lives.
        3. Elde warns that Fortune will abandon a man; the desires of this world will pass away.
        4. Rechlessnesse scorns Elde’s counsel.
        5. Will pursues the lust of his eyes for 45 years—then Fortune (and the friars he sponsored and confessed to) abandon him.
      3. Lewte (equity, justice) enjoins Will to publish his dream "to arate dedly synne" (102). He will be safe, because
        1. No individuals are named.
        2. Will only makes into poetry what all know already.
      4. Scripture’s sermon.
        1. Who will be saved?
        2. Trajan describes his conversion.
        3. Love superior to learning.
        4. True love extends to enemies, and especially to the poor.
        5. Rich and poor are brethren in Christ.
        6. Faith superior to learning.
        7. Self-knowledge (i.e., of one’s sinfulness) is superior to learning.
        8. Poverty more blessed than riches.
          1. We are all "pilgrims" (i.e., strangers in this world).
          2. Problems with the priesthood:
            1. Priests overly concerned with collecting special fees: no priest should be ordained without an ample benefice (or a private income).
            2. Too many illiterate priests who cannot say mass properly.
      5. Inset dream: Kynde shows Will the whole of God’s creation
        1. Sexuality of animals.
        2. Will complains that Reson (here, divine oversight) does not govern man’s affairs closely enough.
        3. Reson replies that God is patient.
      6. Ymaginatif rebukes Will’s presumptious criticism of Reson: Will himself is not without sin (with the implication that he, too, has benefited from God’s patience).
    5. Passus XII.
      1. Ymaginatif (?reflection) charges Will with wasted years.
      2. The way to Dowel, Dobet, and Dobest is plain to all: love your spouse, have charity; stay in your monastery if you are a monk; give to the poor, esp. if you are rich.
      3. The usefulness of clergie, which Will had scorned.
        1. Divine lore leads men to salvation; secular learning is less valuable.
        2. The wisdom of the Magi.
        3. The illiterate must depend on sometimes ignorant clerics for vital knowledge of the way to salvation.
        4. Last-minute conversions of ignorant men (e.g., the thief on the cross, Trajan) sufficient to salvation, but earn a low place in heaven.
        5. Nature’s mysteries known only to herself.
        6. The rich man is like a peacock, the humble man like a lark (say the writers Avianus and Aristotle).
        7. Perhaps wise pagans will be saved, since they have guided us in their writings.
          1. Three kinds of baptism: water, blood (martyrdom), fire ("ferme bileve").
          2. Perhaps God will honor the pagans who were righteous by their own lights.
  4. Fourth Vision
    1. Passus XIII.
      1. after waking from his interview with Ymaginatif, Will wanders the earth for many years, mulling over the contents of his last vision (especially Passus XI and XII). He falls asleep again, and dreams.
      2. A dinner with Conscience, Clergie, and a Doctor of Theology (a learned friar).
        1. The gluttony of the friar, who will give Will and Patience nought to eat.
        2. Will complains; Patience restrains him, predicting that the friar’s subtlety will prove gluttony a form of penance.
        3. Will asks, "What is Dowel, Dobet, and Dobest?"
          1. Friar: Dowel="do as clerkes techeth"; Dobet=teacher; Dobest=he that practices what he teaches.
          2. Clergie: according to Piers Plowman,
            1. Love is all; love God therefore, and do justice.
            2. "Dowel and Dobet are two infinites, / Which infinites with a feith fynden out Dobest."
          3. Patience: according to Love (his girlfriend), Dowel=learn, Dobet=teach, Dobest=love (especially your enemies).
        4. The riddle of Patience: caritas vincit omnia.
        5. The learned friar thinks Patience naive.
        6. Civil and ecclesiastical reform will require both Patience and Clergie (learning).
      3. Conscience will go a pilgrimage with Patience, till Patience has tried him and made him perfect.
        1. The food of Patience.
        2. The Discourse of Haukyn the Waferer (Activa Vita).
          1. Haukyn complains that entertainers are well-paid, but not bakers like himself.
          2. The pope and his pardons, he notes, are powerless to cure the plague-stricken.
          3. The difficulty of making bread in time of dearth.
        3. Conscience observes that the best of Haukyn’s garments is stained and full of holes [his righteousness as dirty rags].
            1. His vanity and boasting.
            2. He is an envious gossip, a recreant; lecherous, covetous, dishonest in business; a thief; a usurer; unrepentant; a liar, swearing false oaths in God’s name; a glutton, desperate.
              1. The "braunches" that lead a man to wanhope.
              2. Among these is listening to flattering jesters and minstrals.
                1. Woe to the rich who reward "fool-sages" and ignore the poor.
                2. Men should entertain beggars, not jesters.
    2. Passus XIV.
      1. Haukyn complains that an active man cannot live sinless, tho’ he go to confession now and again.
      2. Conscience teaches him true repentance: Dowel=heartfelt contrition; Dobet=auricular confession; Dobest=restitution and penance.
      3. Patience will feed Haukyn.
        1. Be not anxious about your livelihood: commit yourself to God’s will and care; fear not death.
        2. Eat moderately.
          1. Gluttony is the cause of famine (i.e., there is food for all, if none overeat).
          2. Superfluity causes pride among rich and poor; Sodom fell into sin through sloth and "plentee of payn" (that is, il pane).
        3. Auricular confession absolves sin, whereas private repentance merely makes the mortal sin venial. (Still, "contricion, feith and conscience is kyndeliche Dowel".)
        4. The rich have their reward now; the poor will have it in heaven. Nor will the rich have "two hevenes," except they give generously to the poor.
          1. The plight of the poor: may God reward them (with summer after this life’s winter) and amend the rich.
          2. The humble poor have a full pardon [like that Piers received] through confession. But indulgences, pilgrimages, and prayers avail the proud man nothing.
          3. The poor more sure of heaven than the rich, and demand it boldly of the righteous judge.
            1. Poverty, if accompanied by Patience, drives out the seven deadly sins.
            2. What is more, he that makes himself poor by choice has cause to demand a heavenly reward even more boldly (than he that does not seek poverty willingly).
          4. Patience praises poverty, first with a Latin citation, then with an English exposition of the citation.
        5. Haukyn weeps.
      4. The dreamer wakes.
  5. Fifth Vision.
    1. Passus XV.
      1. The dreamer wakes confused, and is accounted a fool by most; Reson has pity on him, and Will dreams again.
      2. Anima introduces himself, gives a list of names by which he is known, and describes the dangers of swollen intellectual appetite (allied with the Fall).
      3. Criticism of the Clerisy.
        1. Friars meddle in sacred mysteries.
        2. The example of venal friars and priests pernicious to the flock.
        3. The Church languishes for want of good priests.
        4. Will asks, what is charity?
          1. Anima describes charity as a pilgrimage (here, "errands of mercy").
          2. Only Piers Plowman (here, God) can judge the intentions of the heart, wherein charity dwells.
        5. The friars beg because they are lazy, not to imitate Christ.
          1. Charity is to be found amongst men of every class, but seldom amongst friars (St. Francis an exception).
          2. Charity (or its absence) amongst rich men, kings, and prelates.
          3. Holy men require little material sustenance.
          4. The Apostles worked for a living.
          5. The Rule says plain food will suffice for religieux.
          6. Monastic and fraternal establishments already well-endowed: it is foolish to bequeath your children’s inheritance to them.
          7. Summary of the above.
        6. Corrupt clergy like a debased coinage.
        7. Decay of learning.
          1. Arts of prognostication.
          2. Grammar (i.e., basic literacy).
          3. Logic.
          4. Parts of liturgy skipped.
        8. The pernicious moral influence of bad teachers: see for example, the damage wrought by the heretical clerk Mohammed, who founded Islam.
        9. Bishops should teach and evangelize the heathen.
          1. Conversion of England.
          2. Instruction is necessary to salvation.
          3. Muslims and Jews should be easy to convert, since they are monotheists.
          4. The example of the martyrs, esp. Thomas à Beckett.
          5. But money, not souls, is the concern of modern prelates.
          6. The loss of Church lands prophesied.
          7. The Donation of Constantine lamented.
          8. Bishops should teach, and support themselves with private incomes.
        10. Anima urges the evangelization of Jews and Muslims, who already believe in one God.
    2. Passus XVI.
      1. Anima describes the tree of charity:
        1. Planted in man by God.
        2. Tended by Piers Plowman.
        3. Inset dream
          1. Piers describes the "piles" (props) which support the tree of Charity.
            1. Against the World: the power of God the Father;
            2. Against the Flesh: the wisdom of God the Father (i.e., the Son, especially in his suffering)
            3. Against the World, the Flesh, and the Devil, the Holy Ghost.
          2. Equality of the members of the Trinity.
          3. Fruits of charity: marriage, *widowhood, and **virginity.
          4. Piers shakes down fruits for Piers to taste.
          5. But the devil steals the fallen fruits, which are now become the righteous men and women who died before Christ’s advent, and must wait for Him—their champion—in Limbo.
            1. The Annunciation.
            2. Christ heals many, "practicing" his own resurrection under Piers’ tutelage.
            3. Jesus heals many, denounces the Pharisees, cleanses the temple.
            4. Jesus betrayed to the Jews.
            5. Christ jousts with the devil on Calvary.
        4. Waking from the inset dream, Will goes in search of Piers Plowman and meets Abraham (Faith).
          1. Abraham describes the Trinity.
            1. Marriage a symbol thereof.
              1. Eve (the Son) was drawn from Adam (the Father) and their offspring (the Holy Spirit) proceeds from them both.
              2. Father ~ marriage, Son ~ widowhood.
            2. Abraham’s three visitors = the Triune God.
          2. Abraham comforts those in Limbo with the expectation of the promised Redeemer.
    3. Passus XVII.
      1. Spes (Hope) carries the old law (love God and your neighbor) under which Jews were saved before Advent.
      2. Why is a new law necessary?
        1. The new law—believe in the Trinity—is simpler than the old law, and easier to perform.
        2. The Parable of the Good Samaritan.
          1. A man is robbed and beaten by Outlawe in the wood on the way to Jerusalem.
          2. Faith (Abraham) and Hope draw back from the man. They cannot cure his wounds.
          3. But a Samaritan, mounted on a horse named Caro, binds up the man’s wounds and brings him to a farmhouse (lex Christi), where his wounds can be washed ("baptised as it were") in the blood of "a barn born of a mayde." Then his wounds are to be plastered with penance and the child’s "passion."
          4. The Samaritan will to the joust at Jerusalem, and after three days Outlawe will be imprisoned and Death killed.
          5. Until the Samaritan returns, Faith will guide men to Jerusalem, out of the wood, and Hope will succor those whom Faith cannot teach.
      3. The Trinity
        1. The Trinity is like a hand
          1. Father ~ fist, Son ~ fingers, Holy Ghost ~ palm.
          2. Wounding of the palm = sin against the Holy Spirit, which hinders grace
            1. The Trinity is like a candle.
              1. Flame proceeding from the union of wax and wick.
              2. But without a spark, the candle cannot be lit.
            2. Lack of charity (especially avarice) hinders the grace of the Holy Spirit.
            3. Last-minute repentance.
              1. Often hindered by despair.
              2. Though restitution is now impossible, sorrow for sin will suffice.
            4. "Coveteise and unkyndeness" hinder the grace of the Holy Spirit, as smoke and smolder blear the eyes.
  6. Sixth Vision (Passus XVIII).
    1. Waking from his interview with Anima, Will goes shoeless and shirtless till Lent; then on Palm Sunday he has another vision.
    2. Christ comes to Jerusalem, like a knight to be dubbed, where he will joust against Death and Lucifer in the arms of Piers Plowman [i.e., in the guise of human nature].
    3. Christ crucified.
    4. Christ’s death.
      1. The dead rise to tell of his combat with Death.
      2. The Jews send blind Longinus to stab Jesus with his spear.
      3. The blood from Christ’s sight restores the blind man’s sight.
    5. Faith (Abraham) reproves the Jews, and curses them to usury.
    6. The Harrowing of Hell.
      1. The debate of the Four Daughters of God.
        1. Mercy proves to Truth that redemption is possible for the souls in Hell.
        2. Righteousness maintains that sin merits damnation.
        3. Peace replies that the Fall was a happy one.
          1. Good is known only in contradistinction to its opposite.
          2. God will experience Man’s suffering.
      2. Book describes the marvels attendant on Christ’s life and death.
      3. Dialogue of Lucifer, Satan, Gobelyn, and the Devil: Lucifer holds mankind by guile (his imposture in the Garden of Eden), not by right.
      4. Christ breaks down the gates of Hell and claims his saints.
        1. With his death, he fulfills the Old Law, life for life: his life for theirs.
        2. Thus Jesus wins in human form what Lucifer stole in the guise of a snake.
        3. At the Last Judgement, it will be at Christ’s discretion whom to redeem.
          1. The Incarnate Christ claims brotherhood of blood with all mankind, but only those brothers who are also his brothers through baptism will be saved.
          2. Justice will be reconciled with Mercy.
        4. Purgatory will complete the process of sanctification.
      5. —The dreamer must omit something of what he saw [?regarding the nature of Purgatory].—
      6. Christ binds Lucifer, the devils flee.
      7. Mercy and Truth, Righteousness and Peace reconciled.
    7. Easter bells wake the dreamer.
  7. Vision Seven (Passus XIX).
    1. Will writes of the preceding vision; falls asleep during Easter mass.
    2. In his dream, he beholds a bloody Piers Plowman, like to Jesus in appearance, bearing a cross.
    3. Conscience explains.
      1. It is Jesus, the Conqueror and King.
        1. [Dowel] = knight; [Dobet] = king; [Dobest] = conqueror, who humbles nobles and exalts the humble with gifts.
        2. How Jesus came to be known as "Christ" (i.e., how he came to have the characteristics of a conqueror).
          1. Nativity; gifts of the Magi allegorized.
          2. Miracle at Cana (act of power = Dowel).
            1. Water = Old Law.
            2. Wine = New Covenant, characterized by love of enemies.
          3. Healing and feeding Miracles (acts of compassion = Dobet).
          4. Popularity, envy of the chief priest, leading up to Crucifixion .
          5. News of the Resurrection.
          6. Jesus gives Piers/Peter the power to pardon (= Dobest). Note: the pardon which Peter grants is the same which Piers received: i.e., it is granted to those who live righteously (defined here as "those who make restitution for their sins").
          7. Ascension.
          8. Pentecost.
    4. Grace distributes the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.
      1. Bestowed in order to guide the individual when the Anti-Christ assumes control of the Church.
      2. Diversity of gifts.
        1. The trades are gifts of the Holy Spirit.
        2. There is to be cooperation amongst those of diverse gifts, trades, ranks, and levels of ability.
    5. Grace crowns Conscience king, and makes Craft (i.e., Skill) his steward to clothe and feed.
    6. Grace appoints Piers Plowman his own procurator and reeve, his registrar to receive that which is owed (i.e., restitution), his purveyor and plowman.
      1. Piers will plough with 4 oxen (the Evangelists), and harrow with 4 horses (the Latin Doctors).
      2. Piers will sow the seeds of the four cardinal virtues (where fortitudo = patience, and iustitia includes courage),
        1. and bring the harvest into the barn of "Unite" (i.e., Holy Church)
        2. by means of the cart of Baptism (also called "the Bileeve," i.e., the Creed), which is drawn by Contrition and Confession.
    7. The Assault of Pride.
      1. Creed, confession, and contrition vitiated by the "colours" of sophistical [presumably fraternal] rhetoric.
      2. The defense of the Church.
        1. Conscience advises Christians to repent, thus making a ditch round the Barn of Unite. [This season of repentance seems to correspond with Lent.]
        2. As a reward for repentance [in Lent], Christians are fed with the Eucharistic meal.
          1. Piers Plowman has power to "make" this meal.
          2. Conscience suggests "dining" thus once a month, or as often as needed, provided restitution has first been made.
        3. Conscience counsels restitution and the pursuit of the 4 Cardinal Virtues, the chief of which (says Conscience) is Iustitia.
    8. A "lewed" vicar replies that the pope and his cardinals seem to know nothing of this virtue.
      1. When the cardinals go abroad, they are expensive to maintain, and lechery reigns in their courts.
      2. The pope rewards those who harm Christendom, and seeks to enlarge his jurisdiction at any price.
      3. The sins of the cardinals encourage the greed of the common people.
    9. Nobleman and king justify their right to what they take from their subjects; Conscience maintains that Omnia sunt tua ad defendendum set non ad deprehendendum.
    10. The vicar goes home, and the dreamer wakes.
  8. Vision Eight (Passus XX).
    1. Will’s encounter with Need on the road.
      1. Extreme need excuses theft when all other possibilities of borrowing have been exhausted.
      2. But temperance (the preeminent moral virtue, according to Need) must be observed in all things.
      3. Need makes man humble.
      4. Christ became needy by choice; therefore need has no shame in it for men.
    2. Will dreams: the Coming of Antichrist.
      1. Friars and regular clergy follow Antichrist.
      2. Kynde sends sickness, plague, and old age to make men mindful of death.
      3. But lechery and the flattery of Fortune neutralize the warnings of adversity.
      4. Covetise assails Conscience and the Cardinal Virtues with barratry and bribery in the courts, both ecclesiastical and secular.
      5. Careless of death, [the Pride of] Life laughs, and pursues fashion, harlotry, and deceit; scorns holiness, loyalty, and loyalty.
      6. Sloth ensues, and weds Despair.
      7. Life sees at last that doctors cannot hold off Elde; old age overtakes Will.
      8. Kynde counsels Will to seek out Holy Church.
        1. Sufficient clothing and food will be provided, if only he can learn to love.
        2. Will comes to Unite by Contrition and Confession.
      9. The decay of the priesthood (an assault of Sloth).
        1. Priests forsake Conscience for silver.
        2. Friars come to make up the deficit of good priests.
          1. But they know not well their "craft," and at first Conscience scorns them.
          2. Need advises Conscience not to settle a cure of souls on the friars, because they are covetous.
          3. But Conscience laughs at this advice, and invites the friars into Unite, on condition that they leave off logic-chopping and learn to love.
          4. It were wicked to pay the friars a regular wage: they are far too numerous in proportion to the population that is asked to maintain them.
          5. The friars go to school for Envy’s sake and study logic, law, and philosophy, whereby they "preve" that "alle thynges under hevene oughte to ben in comune."
          6. Motivated by shame, men make confession to the friars instead of to their parish priests.
          7. Friars do not fulfill obligations to pray but simply pocket the fees.
      10. The assualt of Pride on Holy Church continues.
        1. Peace is made porter, to bar gossips.
        2. But Ypocrisie and gossip wound many wise and good teachers (including Contrition).
        3. Conscience sends for a doctor, to confess them, but some like not his terms (which are those of Piers’ pardon, calling for the penitent to make restitution).
          1. Leef-to-lyve-in-lecherie complains that Friday fasting will kill him, and asks for Frere Flaterere.
          2. In spite of Conscience’s scruples—the parish priests as supervised by Piers Plowman are sufficient to shrive everyone—Flattery is summoned.
          3. Peace the porter is reluctant—eight years previous a friar got some of his lord’s women with child—but Hende-Speche prevails on him and Flattery is admitted to Unite.
          4. For a secret fee, the friar promises to pray for Contrition and his creditors.
          5. Under the influence of the "glos[ynge]" friar, Contrition forgets to lament his sin.
        4. Pride and Sloth assail the gate, but the Frere Flaterere has rendered Contrition oblivious and therefore useless as a defender.
      11. Conscience cries for Grace and goes out into the world to seek Piers Plowman, that he might destroy Pride and supply the friars with a "fyndyng" (i.e., some form of maintenance), who at present must flatter Conscience in order to earn a living.



Outline by David Wilson-Okamura, February 1996. Please distribute freely. Send corrections to