Piers Plowman and the Unwillingness to Work.
Sloth is to WL the dominant principle of corruption, and sins of omission are more troublesome to him than those of commission. WL would not have agreed with Marsilius of Padua that estates, established by the will of the community, could be altered by communal consent. His understanding of the monarchy is influenced by voluntarist theory as it developed after Aquinas, in which the king’s will is ruled by reason; hence in B.4, Conscience refuses to obey the king’s will regarding marriage to Meed until Reason is called. Similarly, in the additions of C.5-6 (Skeat), Reason and Conscience “frame” their rebuke of Will for his idleness by admonishing the king for his negligence in enforcing justice and loving his subjects. From his first entrance, Will represents much of what is wrong with society; his hermit-like appearance is belied by the fact of his unhermitlike wandering, which to Cassian was an image of sloth. C.9.203-12 (Pearsall) glosses the dreamer-narrator’s unholiness; and the untraced tag of 212 (translated, “it is not permitted for us to conform the law to our will, but to conform will to law”) exposes Will’s neglect of the legal and moral imperative of plowing, “to pursue instead a dubious search for a fellow named Dowel’ Will has failed to recognize that the essence of Dowel is doing.
Mediaevalia 9 (1986 [for 1983]): 239-49.
Bowers, John M.