Poet versus Priest: Biblical Narrative and the Balanced Portrait in English Literature
Up to the time of the English Civil War, most authors viewed themselves as adjuncts to the Established Clergy in the effort of reform. Following a scriptural pattern, a negative portrayal of clergy would be balanced by a positive portrayal, as for example in PPl, whose denunciatory portrait of the friar (C.1.56-59) is balanced by Will, the central reformer of the poem, who functions analogously to Chaucer’s Parson. Beginning in the seventeenth century, some authors (e.g., Henry Vaughan) suggested that the poet could do more than the cleric to amend society.
Christian Scholar's Review 23 (1993): 145-58.
Hamilton, Christopher T.