Retributive Violence and the Reformist Agenda in the Illustrated Douce 104 MS of Piers Plowman
The illustrations in the Douce 104 manuscript are placed in an interactive relationship with the main text to emphasize that enforcement of the proper codes of Christian behavior is the responsibility of interconnecting levels of authority. By affirming the hierarchical system of rewards and punishments in heaven and hell, the illustrator follows the poet’s approach of balancing the demands of law and love. His selection of passages to illustrate, however, clearly shows his stern reformist bias. For communal well-being and for individual salvation, violent corrective measures are emphasized as being necessary for all stages and conditions of life. Together, the images form a narrative group which advocates timely chastisement as an incentive to do better and warns of worse in store if it is not properly administered.