Piers Plowman: Poverty Work, Work, and Community.
Sees in the time after the Statute of Laborers a conflict between the principle of non-judgmental charity and that espoused by William of St. Amour and Richard FitzRalph, identifying perfection with possessions and championing a new work-ethic that upheld conservative social values. While PPl’s opening vision assumes the traditional social model in the face of a mobile labor population, WL’s commitment to traditional moral theory results in Hunger’s momentary shift from discriminatory charity in B.6.225-26. The gloss on the Pardon opposes St. Gregory’s notion of unconditional charity to the pagan Cato; tearing the Pardon signals Piers’s reluctance to identify the work-ethic with traditional Christian morality. Trajan re-affirms Scripture’s views on indiscriminate charity; Haukyn manifests the author’s deep suspicion of economic growth as the means to create a iust community; Need likewise re-affirms the rights of those in need, in conformance with Franciscan principles. The poem’s final position represents a compromise, in conveying “the doomed, anachronistic nature of the neo-Franciscan ethos it cherishes.”
Rev. N. B. Atwater, Choice 26 (May 1989): 1512; Sheila Delaney, SAC 12 (1990): 239-42; John C. Hirsch, MAE 59 (1990): 142-43; R. W. Hanning, Speculum 66 (1991): 368-70; Peggy A. Knapp, Envoi 2 (1990): 269-73; H. L. Spencer, RES ns 42 (1991): 89-91.