Mede and Mercede: The Evolution of the Economics of Grace in the Piers Plowrnan B and C Versions.
The B text presents two kinds of meed, one earthly and immoral, the other heavenly and proportionate to merit; wage labor, because it falls outside a reward situation, is not included. In WL’s desire to clarify the concept and avoid equating all meed with corruption, he introduces mercede into the C text (translating Lat. merces “wages,” “payment,” “material reward,” “theological grace or merit”) for all positive forms of reward, and retains meed for its evil forms. He deletes the distinction in B based on mesure, and substitutes a criterion of the chronological sequence between the deed and its reward; because this criterion fails the test of universality he adds a grammatical analogy that sees propriety as dependent on a congruence between giver and recipient. Taking issue with Pearsall, and Overstreet (Tradito 40 : 251-96), argues that meed/mercede are compared to indirect/direct relations, and that both of these are like (and exemplify) the relation of adjective to substantive. C.2.116-26 presents us with a good form of meed, as daughter of Amends, but this contradicts C.3 and is an oversight that WL did not remove when he rethought the nature of meed between C.2 and C.3 and made it thoroughly evil.
Kennedy et al., Medieval English Studies Presented to George Kane, 217-32.