`Coveitise to Konne ‘ `Goddes Pryvetee,’ `Goddes Pryvetee,’ and Will’s Ambiguous Dream Experience in Piers Plowman.
PPl not only undercuts the prophetic status of the dreamer and the privileging of his visionary experience, but calls into question the notion of the dream vision as a revelatory mode and, as a result, undermines the poem’s authority. Anima’s rebuke to Will (B 15) identifies him as one of Pride’s knights; specifically, his immoderate lust for knowledge in its own right, analogous to the primal sin, is a form of curiositas. In pursuing the same esoteric knowledge he condemns in the friars, Will presents a rough parallel with Johnj of the Miller’s Tale, who because he does not practice what he preaches (praise of the “lewed man”) is made a fool of. Will’s behavior exemplifies the sandard description of curiositas as morally useless and dangerous, symptomatic of an unstable frame of mind: passive talk about Dowel is substituted for active doing, as Will becomes morally immobilized. The sensual component of the sin underlies Will’s perplexing visionary experience. Late-medieval dream commentary was reluctant to claim supernatural inspiration for dream experience; in B 7 the biblical exempla of Daniel and Joseph are contextualized so as to distance them from Will’s experience. Will’s visions lack an authority figure like Gower’s angelus bonus or authoritative allusions to the Apocalypse (Vox Clamantis 1.Prol.). PPl’s lone reference to a New Testament visionary, Paul (B.18.394-98), inverts the Pauline model discussed by Augustine in De Doctrina Christiana: Will appropriates for himself the personal experience Paul modestly describes in the third person, and ignores the Apostle’s example by writing down that which should be left unuttered.
Vaughan, Suche Werkis to Werche. 89-121.
Emmerson, Richard K.