Langland’s Exegetical Drama: The Sources of the Banquet Scene in Piers Plowman
The interpretative scheme of the banquet scene (B.13.21-214) derives almost entirely from traditional exegesis of Proverbs 23. Ambrose’s De Officiis ministrorum (ca. 391) employs an allegory of “the feast of Wisdom,” based on a conflation of Proverbs 9:1 and 23:1, which in its distinctio on the meanings of “food” offers WL a model for the various dishes associated with the friar, Will, Patience, and Scripture. Subsequent exegesis, especially Hugh of St. Cher’s Opera omnia in universum Vetus et Novum Testamentum, stressed the conflict of worldly wisdom and Christian penitence. Hugh’s critique of prideful learning applies to both the pompous “doctour” and Clergy, while his explicit antidote of humility and penitence is echoed in B.13.40-45a. WL’s Patience enacts Hugh’s via recta in combining humility and charity, while Conscience dramatizes the precept of Proverbs 23:19-21 to “avoid the feasts of great drinkers.”
Newhauser and Alford, eds., Literature and Religion in the Later Middle Ages. 97-117.
Alford, John A.