Piers Plowman and Parish Wall Paintings
The paintings displayed on the walls in local parish churches in medieval England constitute a significant contemporary religious discourse, one that can contribute to an understanding of PPl. The murals bring us closer to the culture of the poet and his audience, at the same time that they help distinguish the poem from other contemporary writing. The paintings within the nave, that part of the church devoted to the laity, emphasize the achievement of the Christian life in this world, an emphasis replicated in PPl. The dreamer’s anxiety over his own salvation, the selective narratives of the Passion and the Harrowing from Christ’s ministry, as well as the worldly preoccupation with the seven deadly sins, all represent the most popular mural schemes of the nave. The wall paintings encourage an idiosyncratic, non-linear experience of biblical narrative, suggesting that contemporary readers might have been more comfortable than modern readers with the poem’s disharmonies and mixture of genres.
YLS 11 (1997): 1-38.
Benson, C. David