Title Background

The Fortunes of Piers Plowman and Its Readers.

The Fortunes of Piers Plowman and Its Readers.

This essay explores the place of Fortune in PPl as both allegorical figure and lowercase synonym for ‘chance’ as well as the fifteenth-century future of this combination of religious poetics and vernacular philosophy, biblical moralism and secular Fortuna. It examines two poems whose debts to L have never before been recognized, found in a manuscript traditionally associated with an aristocratic, country house milieu, Cambridge Ff.1.6 or the Findern Manuscript. These poems open a new window into PPl, showing us how a fifteenth-century reader might have interpreted the poem’s small but significant engagement with Fortune, beginning early on in passus 6 and concluding in the very final passus of both the B and C texts.  The Findern poems, ‘How Myschaunce Regnythe in Ingeland’ and ‘A Complaint to Dame Fortune’ testify to the importance of reading intertextually, not only laterally or backward in time, but forward as well; as this paper shows, the anonymous composers of these poems are astute readers of L’s work — so astute, in fact, that they have noticed an important theme in PPl that contemporary criticism has largely missed. 


YLS, 20 (2006), 1-41.


Nolan, Maura