Title Background

Retaining Men (and a Retaining Woman) in <i>Piers Plowman</i>.

Retaining Men (and a Retaining Woman) in Piers Plowman.

Despite the pervasiveness of the practice, no one has yet surveyed English literature for instances of maintenance. In a nutshell, maintenance was a kind of mutually beneficial relationship between a lord and a servant, and nearly everyone in later medieval England was involved. This article illustrates how affinities, groups of retainers, were depicted in PPl, concentrating on the rat court and the Meed episodes. ‘Retaining Men’ argues that to ignore the issue of maintenance is to miss a central theme in PPl that shows development over time.  By exploiting the parallels between maintenance relationships between men, and the legal relationship between husbands and wives, L is able to critique a fundamental cultural institution safely.