Title Background

<i>Piers Plowman</i> the Wycliffites, the Wycliffites, and Pierce the Plowman’s Creed.

Piers Plowman the Wycliffites, the Wycliffites, and Pierce the Plowman’s Creed.

Although the B and C texts were produced at a time when some Wycliffite material was available to WL, recent doubt as to Wyclif’s authorship of vernacular sermons and treatises formerly ascribed to him suggests that much of this material was in fact written after the C text; moreover, there is no convincing evidence that WL knew Wyclif’s Latin writings. Although WL and the Lollards sound similar on some topics, “they do not always sound so similar on those the Wycliffites eventually made their own’ There is very little correspondence between WL’s interests and the tenets associated with the Wycliffites by their opponents, and there are key differences (e.g., WL nowhere seems to share the Wycliffite desire to dispense with a mediating clergy). Both can be said to show the influence of nominalism, but PPl reflects such premises with uncertainty and a concern with particulars, while Wyclif contended that universal concepts exist eternally as archetypes in the mind of God and are subject to mutability only on their lower levels of being. The Wycliffite PPCreed (post 1394), which in part closely reworks PPl, illustrates such differences: Pierce suggests an archetypal perspective in his exposition of the mendicant orders. WL’s uncertainty in the corresponding section (B.8.22ff.) regarding the usefulness of Will’s search for Dowel is removed, as are the questions WL leaves us with regarding Will’s reliability as a guide. Similarly, Piers’s enigmatic quality is eliminated, and Pierce enjoys the same straightforward knowledge of truth as the Lollards to whom he explicitly refers.


YLS 2 (1988): 71-102.


von Nolcken, Christina.