Title Background

The Ending(s) of <i>Piers Plowman</i> A.

The Ending(s) of Piers Plowman A.

Elements in the established text of A complicate any simple view of its conclusiveness, and scribes of A-text manuscripts indicate a mixed reception. Although the dreamer is not said explicitly to wake from his dream, some scribes and later readers willingly accepted this as the poem’s conclusion; but scribes are more evenly divided on this question than are modern critics. What seems to Knott-Fowler and to Kane the voice of the awakened narrator (or poet) in A.11.250-303 is presented in B 10 as the speech of Will within a dream, and in C 12 as spoken in an inner dream by Rechelesnesse. Such revisions do not necessitate our reading of A as inconclusive or unfinished. If the A text has been received in its own independent form, that text is owed a considered analysis in its own terms. The textual record regarding the end of A supports hypotheses of either a completed poem or an abandoned early fragment. The MSS. suggest four distinct conclusions: A is completed at 11.303; completed essentially at that point with some additional lines; continued beyond that point with the “John But” passus; or continued beyond that point with the C text. Yet, we cannot assert uncritically that the A text is in itself incomplete since other readers have accepted it as complete.