Title Background

Dumb David’: Silence and Zeal in Lady Church’s Speech <i>Piers Plowman</i> C.2.30-40, <i>Piers Plowman</i> C.2.30-40

Dumb David’: Silence and Zeal in Lady Church’s Speech Piers Plowman C.2.30-40, Piers Plowman C.2.30-40

In C.2.30-40 Holy Church tells Will what is precisely wrong about Lady Meed, and she concludes her statement by quoting from the Psalter, twice defining David as dumb: “Y do it vppon dauyd; the doumbe wil no$t lyen / . . . And dauyd vndoth hymself as ├że doumbe sheweth.” Why is he dumb? Proverbial, legal, and exegetical texts supply an answer. First, the expression, “the doumbe wil no$t lyen,”is “as early version of a proverb reasonably well attested in early modern English, >Dummy cannot [or will not] lie.=@ In the legal tradition, “Bracton”discusses “the impaired ability of the mute . . . to make stipulations to an agreement or contract,” and implicit in his discussion is the point that mutes cannot lie. But why did L think that David was dumb? Because “most medieval exegetes accepted without question David’s authorship of the psalms,”in which twice the author speaks of himself as mute and dumb (Psalm 38). In citing dumb David, Holy Church thus bolsters her own authority, in that she can no longer exhibit forbearance and patience, and must instead break her silence to speak out against Lady Meed, much like David speaking out of silence against the adversaries of the Lord. Exegesis by Gregory the Great (Moralia in Job 23:11), Rupert of Deutz (De glorificatione Trinitatis 2.17), and Benedict (Regula cap. 6) confirm this reading of David.

Volume

YLS 15 (2001): 203-11

Author

Hill, Thomas D