Title Background

Langland’s Piers the ‘Villein’: Contract and Pardon.

Langland’s Piers the ‘Villein’: Contract and Pardon.

The freeman and overseer Piers displays both confidence and naiveté in his reliance on covenants and contracts that prove half understood or only conditionally executed. In B.6 the knight as lord of the manor accepts a responsibility in communal endeavors mandated by reason, just as the king was earlier made to recognize broader principles of ruling than merely reward. Piers contracts to prevent want in return for the knight’s pledge to enforce villar amercements with mercy. Yet Piers’s testament shows he presumes to dispose of communally gained goods; he forgets that only those who do good are rewarded. The pardon likewise undercuts Piers’s authority over family and fellows.


Voices in Translation: The Authority of "Olde Bookes" in Medieval Literature. Essays in Honor of Helaine Newstead. Ed. Deborah M. Sinnreich-Levi and Gale Sigal. New York: AMS Press, 1992. 1-11.


Bissell, Barry L.