Title Background

Medieval Sermons

Medieval Sermons

WL’s concern with man’s spiritual destiny, his condemnation of vice in society, and his introduction of allegorical preaching figures relate PPl to preaching. The extent of this debt is difficult to gauge, however, since medieval sermons are known only from literary documents (mostly in Latin), and the texts of medieval artes praedicandi differ widely in content and form. Sermons were a channel through which WL received images that originated in other genres (e.g., venality satire and biblical commentary). Finds that the poem’s closeness to sermons extends to diction and precise images and quotations. Sermons occasionally clarify the lexical meaning of a word and its associations in PPl (e.g., kalketrappes [C.20.294] as defined by Bromyard’s Distincciones). Sermons also show that some apparent errors in the poem are not due to WL: in C.17.56 the Fourth Commandment is used to authenticate parents’ obligations to their children, just as it is in sermons. Despite these unmistakable connections, no case has been made that WL”drew from a specific source or preacher.” The sermon background is a diffuse and widely dispersed influence, “furnishing commonplaces and perhaps even structural patterns that floated from pulpit to pulpit and settled in many written texts.” PPl differs from sermons in its lack of rigidly schematic precision, its dramatic nature, and its association and compression of images, and in the freedom WL takes in ordering and sometimes even omitting members of set lists.


Alford, Companion to PPl 155-72.

Cross Reference



Wenzel, Siegfried.