The Good Shepherds of Medieval Criticism.
The medieval English world was one of social, economic, and class conflict, not one of quiet hierarchies and unquestioned traditional beliefs. B. 6, the plowing of the half-acre, ought more appropriately to be called “labour disputes and strikes on the manor”; it dramatizes the strivings of the rural workers, here redefined by WL as wasters, against their employers and the Statute of Laborers. The wasters are characterized by their self-agency in a fashion quite the opposite of the deferential, idealized poor. The encounter is resolved in the gentry’s perception of the limits of their own power and in WL’s desperate hope for a subsistence crisis. The workers, Piers laments, have not internalized the employers’ work ethos. PPl demonstrates it is “not … everywhere equal to the greatest force and to all the consequences of its questions.”