Sins of the Tongue and Rhetorical Prudence in Piers Plowman
Understood with reference to Peraldus’s Summa de vitiis et virtutibus and Albertano de Brescia’s De arte loquendi et tacendi, the failure of language in PPl is the fault of individuals who do not shape their language in accordance with Christian models. PPl shares with both treatises the analysis of the various species of peccatum linguae as well as their remedy in prudence. In B.Prol., Will does not comment on his dream, and in B.4 use of the word mamelen (“mumble”) suggests a continuing lack of confidence; but by B.8 he speaks out against the friars’ peccatum bilinguium, and in B.9 the metaphor of speech as God’s poet affirms Will’s growing awareness that “through godly poetry he lives more in accord with Christian vocation than many religious.” Tongueless Anima emphasizes the importance of control of the tongue; similarly, Abraham and Moses are shown to fulfill two of the three Peraldian prescriptions for use of the tongue, i.e., praying and repeating holy words (the third, taking the sacrament, is insisted upon by the Samaritan).
Newhauser and Alford, eds., Literature and Religion in the Later Middle Ages. 119-42.
Blythe, Joan Heiges