Piers Plowman Numerical Composition, Numerical Composition, and the Prophecies.
Considering the alliteration of the B text and the numbers of the lines in which such alliteration occurs in light of gematria (symbolic alphanumeric patterns) reinforces the poem’s fundamental theme: “that each of us takes our place in the moral and cosmological struggle between good and evil.” More specifically, gematria hold the key to the interpretation of the three riddling prophecies of B: that of B.3.325-30 is shown to be eschatological, with the “six sonnes” referring to the time of tribulation, the ship to the passage through it, and the half sheaf (twelve) of arrows to a condition of wholeness. The concluding exhortation, “quod bonum est tenete” (B.3.343), is likewise the theme of the prophecy beginning B.6.320 (Schmidt ed.), where eight symbolizes the Antichrist, the “two monkes heddes” carry traditional negative implications of duality, and “Dawe the Dykere” stands for mankind caught in darkness that is distance from God, who appears symbolically in the final line, B.6.330, with its reiterated GGG, or 777 signifying the close of an age. The last prophecy, beginning B. 13.153 (153 being the number of fishes caught by the disciples in John 21:11), also refers to the transcendence of the time-cycle represented by sainthood.
Connotations 1 (1991): 103-39.