Piers Plowman


William Langland

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

Piers Plowman: Passus IX Summary & Analysis

Wit tells Will and Thought that nearby is a castle constructed out of the four elements. Inside the castle, Kind has “enclosed” a beautiful woman named Anima, whom he loves. Keeping her company is a duke named Sir Do-Well, and his daughter, Do-Better, who serves as Anima’s maid. Do-Best is a “bishop’s peer,” who also lives with the group and gives them all guidance. The group is protected by a knight named Sir Inwit and his five sons—See-Well, Say-Well, Hear-Well, Work-Well-With-Your-Hands, and Go-Well.
This passage introduces Kind, who is the second representation of God in the poem (the other being Truth). Wit explains Do-Well, Do-Better, and Do-Best as people who dwell in a castle (reminiscent of Truth’s castle, Heaven, from the Prologue), perhaps implying that if a Christian is committed to cultivating the characteristics of Do-Well, Do-Better, and Do-Best, they, too will be able to reside in Heaven.
Love Theme Icon
Social Hierarchy, Community, and Selfishness Theme Icon
Will asks about Kind, and Wit explains that Kind is the creator who made all creatures and specifically made humans “in the image of himself.” Wit reveals that the castle made of four elements is actually the human body, and Anima—the soul—dwells in the heart. Wit teaches that sinful humans have a soul “like the Devil,” whereas those who live honest lives “are like God almighty.”
The characters’ allegorical qualities are explicitly revealed—Anima, the soul, is served by the qualities of Do-Well, Do-Better, and Do-Best, and guarded by the five senses. Wit’s teaching that some people develop a soul that resembles the Devil, while others develop a soul that resembles God, refers back to the “field full of folk” perched between the castle on the hill and the dungeon in the valley—that is, the concept that all people have the ability to go to Heaven or Hell depending on how they conduct themselves on earth.
Corruption Theme Icon
Wit ultimately explains to Will that to Do-Well “is to do as law teaches,” to Do-Better is “to love and lend aid,” and to “protect,” “provide for,” “heal,” and “help” others is to Do-Best.
Similar to Thought, Wit explains that Do-Well, Do-Better, and Do-Best are characteristics that build on one another. The first involves following guidelines for acting well that exist outside the individual (the law). The second involves internal guidelines (love), but followed somewhat passively. While the third involves actively following internal guidelines for acting well. Wit connects performing good works, such as providing for the poor, healing the sick, and helping those who can’t help themselves, with Do-Best. 
Love Theme Icon
Good Works and Salvation Theme Icon
Related Quotes