Title Background

The Status and Meaning of Meed in the First Vision of <i>Piers Plowman</i>.

The Status and Meaning of Meed in the First Vision of Piers Plowman.

Argues that interpretations of WL’s fictions are inattentive to his images and neglectful of the language of PPl. Criticizes the title “Lady” Meed as bestowing a credibility to Meed that WL denies her: she appears as a consequence of the Dreamer’s request to know the false. She is, pace Pearsall, “morally neutral” only in the ambivalence of some of the characters to material reward and in the Dreamer’s own shifts of position. The Dreamer comes to realize that Meed is a proud and false maid; Conscience’s references to Meed as a lady cannot be interpreted literally. Revision in the successive versions of the account of Meed’s parentage maintains a distinction between her falseness by parentage and by marriage that reflects the scholastic distinction between falseness in the thing itself and falseness in our knowledge of the thing. The revision at C.3.285-405a, which introduces a distinction between Mercede and Meed, sharpens the distinction in B between two kinds of meed. Mercede refers to the temporal reward that is part of righteousness; Meed to the product of unrighteousness that cannot be reconciled with man’s spiritual good.