Piers Plowman

by

William Langland

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Piers Plowman can help.

Piers Plowman Character Analysis

Piers Plowman is a humble peasant who is a follower of Truth, a husband to Dame-Work-When-It’s-Time-To, and a father to Do-Just-So-Or-Your-Dame-Will-Beat-You and Suffer-Your-Sovereigns-To-Have-Their-Will-Condemn-Them-Not-For-If-You-Do-You’ll-Pay-A-Dear-Price-Let-God-Have-His-Way-With-All-Things-For-So-His-Word-Teaches. Piers tries to show society how to follow Truth through honest, hard labor, but he frequently grows discouraged by the laziness and disobedience that crops up among the people. Piers Plowman also briefly serves as a teacher to Will, teaching him about the tree of Patience (the Christian community) and the three wooden poles (the Trinity) that he uses to defend the tree from the Devil. Eventually, Piers Plowman comes to represent Christ, underscoring the humble, human side of Jesus.

Piers Plowman Quotes in Piers Plowman

The Piers Plowman quotes below are all either spoken by Piers Plowman or refer to Piers Plowman. 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 V Quotes

He’s the promptest payer that poor men know.
He withholds no worker’s wages so he’s without them by evening.
He’s as lowly as a lamb and lovely of speech.

Related Characters: Piers Plowman (speaker), Truth
Page Number: 91
Explanation and Analysis:
Passus VI Quotes

I shall sweat and strain and sow for us both,
And also labor for your love all my lifetime,
In exchange for your championing Holy Church and me
Against waters and wicked men who would destroy me.

Related Characters: Piers Plowman (speaker), Knight
Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:
Passus VII Quotes

…I can find no pardon here—
Only, “Do well, and have well,” and God will have your soul.
And “Do evil, and have evil,” and hope nothing else
But that after your death-day the Devil will have your soul.

Related Characters: Priest (speaker), Piers Plowman, Truth
Page Number: 119
Explanation and Analysis:
Passus XV Quotes

Therefore by color nor by clergy, you’ll never come to know him,
Neither through words nor works, but through will alone,
And no clerk knows that, nor creature on earth
But Piers the Plowman, Petrus id est Christus.

Related Characters: Anima (speaker), Will, Piers Plowman
Page Number: 253
Explanation and Analysis:
Passus XVI Quotes

…Piers’s fruit flowered and befell to be ripe.
And then Jesus should joust for it by judgment of arms
Which one should fetch the fruit, the Fiend or himself.

Related Characters: Mary (speaker), Will, Piers Plowman, Christ / Jesus, Fiend
Related Symbols: Tree
Page Number: 277
Explanation and Analysis:
Passus XX Quotes

…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

Piers Plowman Character Timeline in Piers Plowman

The timeline below shows where the character Piers Plowman appears in Piers Plowman. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Passus V
Love Theme Icon
Good Works and Salvation Theme Icon
Labor vs. Idleness Theme Icon
A peasant named Piers Plowman suddenly appears, claiming to know Truth intimately. As Truth’s follower, Piers works in Truth’s fields,... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Piers Plowman gives the crowd an overview of the directions to Truth. The crowd must first go... (full context)
Penance and Repentance Theme Icon
...made of Love-And-Lowness-As-Brothers-Of-One-Womb. The gatekeeper is a man named Grace, and his assistant is Amend-Yourself. Piers Plowman tells the crowd that to enter the gates, they must recite a specific sentence of... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Good Works and Salvation Theme Icon
Piers Plowman warns the people to be on the lookout for Anger, who may try to ambush... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
A pickpocket, ape-trainer, cake-seller, pardoner, and common woman all object to Piers Plowman ’s complicated directions. The pardoner and common woman run off in search of a papal... (full context)
Passus VI
Labor vs. Idleness Theme Icon
The crowd says that Piers Plowman ’s directions to Truth are too complicated to follow on their own—they need a guide... (full context)
Social Hierarchy, Community, and Selfishness Theme Icon
Labor vs. Idleness Theme Icon
Piers Plowman instructs the women to sew clothing for the workers and sacks to hold grain while... (full context)
Labor vs. Idleness Theme Icon
Piers Plowman promises that whoever helps him work will be provided for. His wife is Dame-Work-When-It’s-Time-To, his... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Social Hierarchy, Community, and Selfishness Theme Icon
Labor vs. Idleness Theme Icon
Although most people help Piers Plowman work, some people pretend to be blind or crippled to be excused from labor. Their... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Good Works and Salvation Theme Icon
Labor vs. Idleness Theme Icon
As a last resort, Piers Plowman calls upon a man named Hunger for help. Hunger punishes the fakers harshly, and they... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Social Hierarchy, Community, and Selfishness Theme Icon
Labor vs. Idleness Theme Icon
Hunger refuses to leave until he is fed, forcing Piers Plowman and the other poor peasants to scrape together what food they can find and work... (full context)
Passus VII
Penance and Repentance Theme Icon
Labor vs. Idleness Theme Icon
Truth sends Piers Plowman a pardon “For him and for his heirs” that allows all those who faithfully help... (full context)
Good Works and Salvation Theme Icon
Labor vs. Idleness Theme Icon
A priest asks Piers Plowman for the opportunity to read the pardon and explain it to the people in English.... (full context)
Passus XIII
Love Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Good Works and Salvation Theme Icon
Social Hierarchy, Community, and Selfishness Theme Icon
...about Do-Well. Clergy admits that he doesn’t know how to define Do-Well, although he heard Piers Plowman once say, “…no study is worth a straw except for love alone.” Conscience and Clergy... (full context)
Passus XV
Corruption Theme Icon
Good Works and Salvation Theme Icon
Social Hierarchy, Community, and Selfishness Theme Icon
Labor vs. Idleness Theme Icon
Will wishes he could meet Charity, but Anima says that without Piers Plowman ’s help, Will has no hope of meeting Charity. Piers Plowman knows Charity better than... (full context)
Passus XVI
Corruption Theme Icon
Good Works and Salvation Theme Icon
...in a garden “that God made himself”—the heart of the human body. Anima mentions that Piers Plowman oversees the garden. At the sound of Piers Plowman’s name, Will “swoon[s]” with “pure joy,”... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Piers Plowman appears to Will and shows him the tree called Patience. Will notices the tree is... (full context)
Social Hierarchy, Community, and Selfishness Theme Icon
Will asks Piers Plowman about the three wooden poles, noting that they all seem to have come from the... (full context)
Social Hierarchy, Community, and Selfishness Theme Icon
...from his dream—but is still in the midst of another. He can no longer find Piers Plowman , so he wanders through the country looking for him. One day, he meets a... (full context)
Passus XVIII
Love Theme Icon
Good Works and Salvation Theme Icon
...Palm Sunday. In his dream, he sees Jesus, who looks like both the Samaritan and Piers Plowman , riding barefoot on a mule’s back into town. The crowds sing joyfully that Jesus... (full context)
Passus XIX
Love Theme Icon
...the middle of Mass, however, he falls asleep once more. In his dream, he sees Piers Plowman coated in blood, carrying a cross. Will calls out to Conscience to ask if the... (full context)
Good Works and Salvation Theme Icon
Social Hierarchy, Community, and Selfishness Theme Icon
...“put Do-Best in train.” Conscience explains that in doing so, Jesus also gave power to Piers Plowman to absolve people of their sins, “To bind and unbind both here and elsewhere.”  (full context)
Social Hierarchy, Community, and Selfishness Theme Icon
Will witnesses the Holy Ghost descending upon Piers Plowman and his companions at Pentecost. The men begin to “speak and understand all sorts of... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Grace counsels Piers Plowman and Conscience to gather up the common people so that Grace can distribute among them... (full context)
Good Works and Salvation Theme Icon
Social Hierarchy, Community, and Selfishness Theme Icon
...or pride,” and Grace assigns a multitude of skills, including wisdom, understanding, and courage. To Piers Plowman , Grace gives four oxen—a large ox named Luke, two “mighty” oxen named Mark and... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Good Works and Salvation Theme Icon
Labor vs. Idleness Theme Icon
Along with these gifts, Grace also gives Piers Plowman four types of seeds: the cardinal virtues, to sow in mankind’s soul. The seeds are... (full context)
Labor vs. Idleness Theme Icon
Grace instructs Piers Plowman to build a house to store his crops in. When Piers asks for wood with... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Penance and Repentance Theme Icon
Social Hierarchy, Community, and Selfishness Theme Icon
Once construction is complete, Piers Plowman and Grace depart to plow the entire earth. Seeing his chance, Pride gathers his followers... (full context)
Passus XX
Corruption Theme Icon
Penance and Repentance Theme Icon
...“softer compresses.” Someone recommends Friar Flatterer, but Conscience objects, declaring that the best doctor is Piers Plowman . Conscience eventually complies, and Friar Flatterer is sent for. (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 one who can destroy Pride and “see the friars... (full context)