Piers Plowman

by

William Langland

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Piers Plowman: Passus X Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Will meets Wit’s wife, Dame Study, who is suspicious of Will’s intentions for wanting to learn about Do-Well, Do-Better, and Do-Best. Ultimately, Dame Study’s explanation of Do-Well, Do-Better, and Do-Best is so complex, even her husband “became so confused he couldn’t speak.” Will asks Study to help him “comprehend Do-Well naturally.” Study suggests Will meet her cousin, Clergy, and his wife, Scripture, and gives him directions to find them. As Will prepares to leave, Study teaches him that Theology is worth studying because it centers on love (here, Theology refers to the study of God, not the person named Theology). She reminds Will to “love loyally” in order to Do-Well, “For Do-Better and Do-Best are drawn from Love’s school.”
Dame Study’s teachings about theology point out the way that Christianity centers on love. Thus far, Will has learned to love his fellow Christians as well as his enemies, but here, he learns that the very study of God (theology) is imbued with love as well. Dame Study is also the first teacher to define Do-Well, Do-Better, and Do-Best all in terms of love, emphasizing that the Christian life must be oriented toward love. Of course, these teachings feel somewhat out of place coming from such a stern woman as Study, but perhaps the incongruence makes her lesson all the more impactful—even a woman as strict and critical as Study knows that love is the root of Christianity and the Christian life.
Themes
Love Theme Icon
Once he departs, Will follows Dame Study’s directions and soon finds Clergy, who greets him warmly. Clergy quickly launches into his explanation of Do-Well, Do-Better, and Do-Best. He defines Do-Well as having faith in Jesus, Do-Better as “suffer[ing] for your soul’s health,” and Do-Best as being “bold in blaming the guilty.” Clergy teaches Will that the closest thing to Heaven on earth is a cloister.
As his name suggests, Clergy represents the first estate in Medieval society, the clergy. It is interesting to note how his interpretation of Do-Well- Do-Better, and Do-Best fit his profession, just as Wit’s fit his lawyerly role. It makes sense, then, that he would assert that a cloister (a monastery or convent) is practically Heaven on earth. This comment also suggests that, ideally, the clergy should be the holiest among men, so their place of residence should seem more like Heaven than earth. 
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Clergy’s wife, Scripture, chimes in with her own teachings. She explains to Will that “neither kinghood nor knighthood,” “nor riches, nor revenue, nor royal lord’s estate” help a person get to Heaven. Scripture says it’s nearly impossible for a rich man to go to Heaven, and Will objects, asking why baptism wouldn’t be enough. Scripture explains that alongside baptism, one must also love God and love others—“it behooves him to love that hopes to be saved.”
In Medieval society, only clergy members had book learning, a fact that is reflected in the marriage between Clergy and Scripture. Naturally, Scripture’s teachings are drawn from scripture, as she highlights how the Bible—especially the books written by Paul—is cautious, if not outright critical, of wealth. Like Dame Study, scripture emphasizes that living a life of love can lead a Christian to salvation.
Themes
Love Theme Icon
Good Works and Salvation Theme Icon
Social Hierarchy, Community, and Selfishness Theme Icon
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