The “Absent” Pardon-tearing of Piers Plowman
In this essay, Hanna reads the C-text pardon passus in the context of L’s revisions to the second vision as a whole, and particularly in relation to the new waking episode at the beginning of C. 5. The new passage beginning at C 9.71 in the pardon passus disambiguates between true and false beggars (with special attention to ‘lollares’ and ‘hermytes’) and reflects on Christian obedience and on the different kinds of work that merit material rewards, responding in detail to the issues raised in Will’s vita. Hanna argues that the dreamer’s own concerns are foregrounded in C, while Piers himself plays only a supporting role. In AB, Piers learns to have faith in divine provision, and not to be solicitous about his ‘bely-ioye’, but in C it is Will who learns these lessons, and deploys them in ‘carving out a licit space for a holy poverty not constrained by the necessity of labour’, returning to the questions first put to him in the vita (p. 463). Hanna claims that these BC revisions erase the distinction between the ‘visio’ and the ‘vita’, since the narrator’s own experiences become the poem’s focal point much earlier in C. He also argues that L was responding to changes in the contemporary literary landscape: while AB are indebted to the kind of agonistic exchange that characterises Winner and Waster, C follows the model of Chaucerian dream poems, which emphasise the dreamer’s search for understanding.
Review of English Studies, 66 (2015), 449-64.