Langland Reads Ovid: The Myth of Erysichthon and the Figure of Hunger in Piers Plowman
This essay argues that the Hunger episode in Passus 6 of the B text of PPl was very likely influenced by L’s knowledge of the myth of Erysichthon found in Book 8 of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Although any association between L and the ‘classics’ has generally been discounted, when one considers the popularity of Christian moralized forms of Ovid’s Metamorphoses in the fourteenth century, the important place of Ovid’s work in the school curriculum, and the use of Ovid’s myths in sermons and handbooks for priests, it is clear that L would have had easy access to some form of Ovid’s work. The myth of Erysichthon in the Ovidius Moralizatus of Pierre Bersuire deserves special consideration as a source for L because Bersuire specifically interprets Erysichthon’s hunger as avarice (wanting more than one needs), a sin Erisychthon shares with the wasters who will not help Piers plant his half-acre and demand more than they need.
The Mediaeval Journal, 4:1 (2014), 71-90