The Idea of Universal Salvation in Piers Plowman B and C
This essay takes up Nicholas Watson’s important and influential article, ‘Visions of Inclusion: Universal Salvation and Vernacular Theology in Pre-Reformation England’, and argues that, for WL at least, the promise of universal salvation is at best ambiguous. The essay examines in detail Christ’s speech after he has harrowed hell, the principal locus for the expression of L’s views on the matter, but attempts to place this speech in the context of and as the climactic statement of L’s salvation theology as it develops through the poem. Important variations between the B and C texts in their treatment of the subject are given special attention. The emphasis is always on the continuously evolving drama of PPl as a poem searching for the truth of belief rather than as a poem that expounds a system of already-existing belief. (DP; adapted from the journal)
Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 39 (2009), 257-81.