Title Background

Langland: <i>Piers Plowman</i>‘  , 

Langland: Piers Plowman‘  , 

Summarizes the reception of PPl, describes the poem’s content, and analyses L’s techniques. Engaging with the view of Lewis that L has neither the variety nor the sensitivity to language of Chaucer, Schmidt argues that L should not be compared to lyric poets but rather read in the light of the tradition of dramatic poets like Wyatt, Donne, Browning, and Hopkins. The language employed in the description of Haukyn’s lecherous behaviour (B.13.345-52) is a key example. Perhaps the poem is not more widely read and studied because L mixes genres liberally and extensively uses a mode of allegory whereby abstract ideas are personified. What is perhaps most difficult for readers is L’s adoption of a dream structure for the poem, and his emotional concentration and intellectual complexity. While L favours the plain style, he mixes sublimity and earthiness, a method of which he is a brilliant exponent, as exemplified in the tavern scene in passus 5; the description of Will in 20.193-98; and Christ’s speech during the Harrowing of Hell episode in passus 18.

Volume

in The Cambridge History of English Poetry, ed. by Michael O'Neill (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), pp. 63-80.

Author

Schmidt, A. V. C.