Title Background

<i>Piers Plowman</i> and the Peasants’ Revolt: A Problem Revisited.

Piers Plowman and the Peasants’ Revolt: A Problem Revisited.

References to PPl by Knighton and Walsingham suggest the possibility that it was the A text which was known to the participants of the rebellion, in a state of the poem that included more than the Visio. 1377 provides a terminus ante quem for the A text, which would allow enough time for its contents to gain the repute necessary for obscure allusions. The kinds of men associated with copies of the poem match with fair congruity the dominant classes in the rebellion. With regard to names, the mixture of the typical with the possibly historical in rebellion material recalls WL’s own practice in A.5.161-63 and elsewhere; and the conventicles assembled in preparation for the rebellion find a parallel in the London fraternities associated with the poem’s audience. Wyclif’s De blasphemia is relatively mild in its condemnaton of the rebels, and explicit in its condemnation of the abuses of both clergy and secular powers. The rebels’ understanding of PPl as an encouragement of civil disobedience may not be a complete misreading: WL himself fostered an occult reading of his poem, and the B text, which may be his immediate response to the events of 1381, attaches the Seven Deadly Sins more closely to the clergy and legal profession; seems to apply much of the fable of the rats, cats and mice to the rebellion; emphasizes the need for Mercy to be a taxer (6.39); and at one point (B.15.564-67) echoes the demands of Ball and Tyler.