Becket and the Hopping Bishops.
Focusing on passus 15 of what we have known as “B,” Warner argues that L uses the example of Becket—his only foray into martyrology—as a model for constructing a radically orthodox, antifraternal model for episcopal piety. L’s treatment of Becket eschews the traditional “emphasis on pilgrimage and church/state conflict,” thus leaving him “unimplicated in the Langlandian concern with the idolatry inherent in literal pilgrimage” (130, 109). For L, as for many other writers, even Wyclif, Becket is both the embodiment of the Good Shepherd in all matters relevant to the episcopacy, including evangelism, and the antitype of ecclesiastical possession. Thus Becket is a mirror and exemplum for bishops who should protect their flocks from the “hoppers and creeps,” simoniacs and covetous bishops, particularly those who hold titular sees in the Muslim East, the majority of whom were friars (110). Warner then examines a network of other works, including The Simonie and the South English Legendary, to unpack the various literary, liturgical, and legendary associations of the Becket legend in late-medieval England, and to explain why it would have been “quite reasonable for [L] to recruit England’s exemplary bishop to the antifraternal cause” (116).
YLS 17 (2003): 107–34.