Star Gazing: Piers Plowman and the Peasants’ Revolt
A review article containing an extended response to chapter 3 of Justice, Writing and Rebellion: England in 1381 (1994). Justice’s examination of John Ball’s use of PPl is compromised by the assumption that the B text was the version known to the rebels, whereas the date of composition for B may be as late as 1383, and the replication in Ball’s letters of the A text’s repeated omission of Wrath from the catalogue of sins suggests that A was the text he appropriated. The reactionary nature of the B text, itself a revision of a radical A version, forces Justice to exaggerate the ideological difference between Ball and PPl. The claim that the instruction in Jak Carter’s letter for Piers to “duelle at home and dy@t us corne” allies the rebels with Truth against the poet ignores the correlation between the letter and A.8, where Truth instructs Piers to do just that. In the same way, the characterization of L as diffident to specific reforms seems to derive from reliance on the B version over A.