‘The Vision of Piers Plowman’ is one of the most popular pieces of 14th century English literature.
It tells the story of a poor countryman in England in a simple but powerful way. Learn more about the poem and test your knowledge with a quiz.
What is Piers Plowman?
‘The Vision of Piers Plowman,’ also known as ‘Piers Plowman,’ is one of the most popular poems in Middle English literature.
It is thought to have been written between 1360 and 1399. There are many versions of the original poem because its author, William Langland, constantly revised it.Walter William Skeat classified the poem for modern discussion, and he states there are at least 10 versions of the poem.
However, only three of them are considered to be written by Langland – versions A, B, and C. The A-text is thought to have been written from about 1367-1370. It is not considered finished. Version B was written from about 1377-1379 and is based on version A.
Version C is thought to have been written in the 1380s and is based on version B. Some scholars report the existence of a Z version consisting of elements of versions A and C, but it is much shorter than the other versions.The poem is about a poet who tries to find out what it means to be a true Christian and lead a true Christian life. The poet falls asleep in the English Midlands and has a number of visions.
He is guided in his visions by a virtuous plowman named Piers. The poem is about Piers’ maturity as a Christian.
Poem Summary and Analysis
The poem begins in Malvern Hills, Worcestershire, with a poet who falls asleep and has a vision of a tower set high upon a hill and a fortress lying deep in a valley. The tower represents Heaven and the fortress represents Hell. Between both places is a ‘field full of folk’ representing the world where the man lives.Piers, a virtuous plowman, becomes the guide to truth for the poet.
Some men decide to go on a pilgrimage and discuss religious matters. The Lady Holy Church stresses the importance of love, which the men don’t typically express and show.Towards the end of the poem, the poet tries to search for ways to become virtuous. These efforts are represented by the figurative characters Dowel, (‘Do-Well’) Dobet (‘Do-Better’) and Dobest (‘Do-best’). Dowel represents the conscience, Dobet represents grace, and Dobest represents charity.
‘The Vision of Piers Plowman’ tells the story of a countryman trying to find spiritual truth. There are a number of versions of the poem, including versions A, B, and C, each elaborating on the previous version of the poem.
In the poem, the narrator experiences a number of dreams and is led by a spiritual guide, a man named Piers, into understanding the meaning of his experiences during his dreams.