Langland’s Christus Medicus Image and the Structure of Piers Plowman.
The familiar image of Christ as physician serves to foreground one of Holy Church’s major themes in the association of treacle with love as a symbol of the Incarnation (B.1.148-52 and cf. B.18.152-57) and in the Samaritan’s treatment of the wounded man (B. 17). It serves as a unifying image in tracing the development of Will in his seminal encounters with Imaginatif, Haukyn, and Anima; the image receives illumination from Holy Church’s association of medicine, health, and leechcraft with poverty and contrition, but it also points forward to Will’s spiritual epiphany in B. 18. The image supports a key allegory of the Incarnation, that of Piers teaching Christ medicine so that, wounded by the devil, he may care for himself; and it provides a basic metaphor for B.20 (the piercing of the defense of Unity) in its association of sin with sickness, and penance with a healing salve.