Piers Plowman

by

William Langland

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Conscience is first introduced as the knight whom the King wants Meed to marry. Later, Conscience becomes one of Will’s most important and most enduring teachers, appearing in the majority of Will’s dreams. Conscience proves himself a friend to Patience and Reason, the target of Pride and Antichrist, and a faithful follower of Piers Plowman. Although he is initially a teacher figure advising Will on his quests, Conscience eventually becomes the pilgrim, vowing to wander the world until he finds Piers Plowman—the only person who can save the Christian community.

Conscience Quotes in Piers Plowman

The Piers Plowman quotes below are all either spoken by Conscience or refer to Conscience. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Love Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the W. W. Nortona & Company edition of Piers Plowman published in 2006.
Passus III Quotes

She makes men misbehave many score times.
In trust of her treasures she troubles a great many.
…Poisoned popes, impaired Holy Church.
…She’s as common as the cartway to comers and goers,
To monks, to messengers, to leper-men in hedges.

Related Characters: Conscience (speaker), King, Meed
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:
Passus XIV Quotes

…Contrition may
be used
To scrape your coat clean of all kinds of filth.
…Do-Well will wash it and wring it with a wise confessor.
…Do-Better will scrub it and scour it…
…And then send you to Satisfaction, to let the sun bleach it.
…Do-Best will keep it clean from unkind deeds.

Related Characters: Conscience (speaker), Do-Well, Do-Best, Do-Better, Hawkin
Page Number: 225
Explanation and Analysis:
Passus XIX Quotes

Surely you know…
That knight, king, conqueror can be one person.
To be named a knight is fair, for men shall kneel to him.
To be called a king is fairer, for he can make knights;
But to be called a conqueror, that comes by special grace,
…To make lads lords of the lands he wins
And foul slaves of free men who will not follow his laws.

Related Characters: Conscience (speaker), Will, Christ / Jesus
Page Number: 325
Explanation and Analysis:

This Jesus…when he was just a boy,
Turned water into wine, as holy words relate.
And there God of his grace began to Do-Well.
…And when he’d grown more mature…
…fed with two fishes and with five loaves
Near-famished folk, more than five thousand.
Then he comforted those full of care and acquired a greater name
Which was Do-Better...

Related Characters: Conscience (speaker), Will, Christ / Jesus, Do-Well, Do-Best, Do-Better
Page Number: 329
Explanation and Analysis:
Passus XX Quotes

He lies drowned in dream…and so do many
others.
The Friar with his physic has enchanted the folk here,
And given them a drugged drink: they dread no sin.

Related Characters: Peace (speaker), Conscience, Friar Flatterer, Contrition
Page Number: 363
Explanation and Analysis:

…I will become a pilgrim,
…To seek Piers the Plowman, who might expunge Pride,
And see that friars had funds who flatter for need
And contradict me, Conscience; now Kind avenge me,
And send me heart and health till I have Piers the Plowman.

Related Characters: Conscience (speaker), Piers Plowman, Friar Flatterer, Kind
Page Number: 363
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Piers Plowman LitChart as a printable PDF.
Piers Plowman PDF

Conscience Character Timeline in Piers Plowman

The timeline below shows where the character Conscience appears in Piers Plowman. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Passus II
Corruption Theme Icon
...to marry Truth. Theology declares that Meed and False must go to London to ask Conscience in front of a court of law for permission to wed. Upon hearing this, False... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
...Along the way, Soothness passes the group and arrives at court before them. He warns Conscience of False and Favel’s impure intentions, and Conscience warns the King. The King promises to... (full context)
Passus III
Corruption Theme Icon
...False, but that he forgives her. He asks if she will take a knight named Conscience as her husband instead. Meed readily agrees. However, when Conscience is called in and is... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Contesting Conscience’s charges, Meed argues that gifts are a good thing. By giving meed (rewards), a king... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Labor vs. Idleness Theme Icon
Conscience explains that there are two types of meed— rewards given from God to those who... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Quoting the Bible, Meed retaliates by reciting, “He will acquire honor who gives gifts.” Conscience is quick to point out that Meed has intentionally left out the second half of... (full context)
Passus IV
Corruption Theme Icon
Sick of their fighting, the King orders Conscience to kiss Meed, but Conscience refuses to do so without permission from a man named... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
...follow behind closely. They, too, are headed to court but “to be charged of suits.” Conscience knows that Wisdom and Wit are greedy and potentially dangerous men, so he warns Reason... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Penance and Repentance Theme Icon
...A man named Peace accuses Wrong of three crimes—rape, theft, and murder. With help from Conscience, the King knows that Peace is being honest and that Wrong is “a wicked wretch.”... (full context)
Social Hierarchy, Community, and Selfishness Theme Icon
When the King demands that Wrong face punishment for his crimes, Conscience warns him that unless the common people are obedient, “It’s very hard…actually to effect this.”... (full context)
Passus XIII
Corruption Theme Icon
Penance and Repentance Theme Icon
Social Hierarchy, Community, and Selfishness Theme Icon
Conscience appears to Will in another dream and invites him to a dinner with Clergy, Scripture,... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Social Hierarchy, Community, and Selfishness Theme Icon
Labor vs. Idleness Theme Icon
...is none leftover for Will and his companions. Gesturing to Patience to keep Will quiet, Conscience asks the Master to continue explaining Do-Well and Do-Better. The Master continues, saying that Do-Well... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Good Works and Salvation Theme Icon
Social Hierarchy, Community, and Selfishness Theme Icon
Conscience asks their other dinner companion, Clergy, to put in his two cents about Do-Well. Clergy... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Social Hierarchy, Community, and Selfishness Theme Icon
...two kings. He calls Patience a liar, but is unsurprised, “for pilgrims often lie.” Angered, Conscience declares that he will become a pilgrim like Patience in order to experience and learn... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
...“sobriety and sincere speech and steadfast belief.” Not long after embarking on their journey, Patience, Conscience, and Will come across a wafer-seller named Hawkin, or Activa Vita. Hawkin’s coat is splattered... (full context)
Passus XIV
Corruption Theme Icon
Penance and Repentance Theme Icon
...he still can’t manage to keep the coat clean for more than a few moments. Conscience explains to him that contrition will “scrape your coat clean,” “Do-Well will wash it and... (full context)
Passus XIX
Love Theme Icon
...dream, he sees Piers Plowman coated in blood, carrying a cross. Will calls out to Conscience to ask if the man before him is Jesus or Piers Plowman. Conscience appears and... (full context)
Social Hierarchy, Community, and Selfishness Theme Icon
Will asks why Conscience refers to him as Christ, not Jesus. Conscience says that Will should already know “That... (full context)
Good Works and Salvation Theme Icon
Social Hierarchy, Community, and Selfishness Theme Icon
Conscience explains that when Jesus turned water into wine, he began to Do-Well. When he fed... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Grace counsels Piers Plowman and Conscience to gather up the common people so that Grace can distribute among them “Treasure to... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Penance and Repentance Theme Icon
Social Hierarchy, Community, and Selfishness Theme Icon
...the entire earth. Seeing his chance, Pride gathers his followers and prepares them to attack Conscience, the Christian community, and the cardinal virtues. He instructs his followers to, “Blow them down... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Conscience tells the Christians to take refuge in Unity, since the group isn’t strong enough to... (full context)
Passus XX
Corruption Theme Icon
...plants Guile in its place. Antichrist develops a large following, including many friars. Once again, Conscience calls out to the Christian community to take refuge in Unity. Conscience tells the people... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Penance and Repentance Theme Icon
Despite the momentary peace, Fortune, Lechery, Covetousness, and Simony resume their attack on Conscience and Unity. Simony talks the pope into appointing bishops who are allies of Antichrist. (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Social Hierarchy, Community, and Selfishness Theme Icon
...giants,” and hundreds of “Proud priests” dressed as soldiers and carrying large knives. In desperation, Conscience cries out to Clergy for help, saying, “…I’ll fall / Because of imperfect priests and... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Penance and Repentance Theme Icon
Hypocrisy wounds many of the Christians, so Conscience calls for a doctor, who gives the patients “a sharp salve” and makes them do... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Penance and Repentance Theme Icon
Social Hierarchy, Community, and Selfishness Theme Icon
Conscience welcomes Friar Flatterer and asks him to heal his cousin, Contrition. Friar Flatterer promises to... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Penance and Repentance Theme Icon
Conscience vows to become a pilgrim and search for Piers Plowman, for he is the only... (full context)