The Endings of Stories in Piers Plowman‘
Analyses the effects on PPl B’s narrative of the unfinished character of its main stories: the Marriage of Meed, the Pilgrimage to Truth, Will’s Quest for Dowel, Christ’s Joust with Death and the Devil, and the Siege of Holy Church. The incompleteness of these passages draws the reader on in search of resolution. The reform of the court leads to the attempt to reform of the ‘commune’. However, Dowel not then being clearly understood, Will goes in search of distinct knowledge of it, which he does not find. The fourth story begins as though a chivalric allegory of Jesus’ defeat of death is to follow, but the promised joust does not eventuate. Burrow suggests it is because the problems of existence will not be solved until Christ’s Second Coming that L is unable to continue his allegory, but is forced to resort to ‘unconvincing improvisations’ (p. 26). The Siege of Holy Church ends abruptly with the prayer of Conscience. The indeterminacy of these stories is appropriate to a poem whose theme is the struggle to attain a degree of perfection which the conditions of human existence do not allow.
Essays in Criticism, 61 (2011), 30-40
Burrow, J. A.