The Feffement That Fals Hath Ymaked’: A Study of the Image of the Document in Piers Plowman and Some Literary Analogues
WL’s remarkable ability to synthesize well-established associations of everyday objects is in evidence in his treatment of documents. With regard to the two main documents of the poem, the marriage charter of Meed and False and the pardon given by Truth to Piers, the question of authenticity is decided not in the letter but in the spirit: Gile’s marriage charter is formally acceptable, but invalid because it is based on lies; Truth’s pardon is validated not by the priest’s attempts to construe its meaning, but by Piers’s faith. Documents in PPl are palpable objects, recognized by their formulae and appearance; they are morally and linguistically neutral, and as such raise the question of “the capacity of any linguistic structure to carry truth.”
NM 93 (1992): 125-33.
Hughes, M. E. J.