Title Background

The Structure of Dream Visions in <i>Piers Plowman</i>.

The Structure of Dream Visions in Piers Plowman.

The dreams of the poem do not fall into a single framework; each, with its prologue and epilogue, constitutes a separate dream-vision poem combined in “a unified structure comprised of interrelated yet contrasting kinds of dream visions.” The prologues and the dreams they introduce in the B text create three structural groups that delineate the Dreamer’s spiritual state and the nature of his dreams. Dreams 1, 2, 3 (B. Prol., B. 1- 12) are “dreams of attachment”, in which the worldliness of the Dreamer is defined through the secular motifs of motiveless wandering and the search for adventures, reminiscent of romances, travelbooks, and the literature of courtly love. Dream 2 with its prologue emphasizes his passivity as an observer. The prologue of the dream-within-a-dream in dream 3 moves the focus inward; after this dream experience he understands that spiritual progress involves spiritual activity. Group 2 (dreams 4, 5, 6; B.13-18) projects a more pensive Dreamer, wandering but detached in space and landscape; the prologues dissociate him from the world and his visions become more spiritual. Group 3 (dreams 7, 8; B. 19- 20) are ‘dreams of spiritual advance.” As a result of dream 7 he changes his appearance and moves toward the Church, whereas in dream 8 the contrite Dreamer, in entering Unity, moves from historical religion to a more ideal version.