Piers Plowman


William Langland

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Hawkin’s Coat Symbol Analysis

Hawkin’s Coat Symbol Icon

Hawkin’s coat, which is splattered with numerous stubborn stains, symbolizes Christendom, meaning the Christian community, while the stains represent sin. Hawkin laments to Patience, Conscience, and Will that laundering the coat only keeps it clean temporarily, suggesting the human inclination toward sin. Patience explains to Hawkin that the only thing that will clean his coat—that is, the only thing that will cleanse the Christian community from their sins and keep them from sinning in the future—is contrition (genuine remorse for one’s sins) and the sacrament of penance.

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Hawkin’s Coat Symbol Timeline in Piers Plowman

The timeline below shows where the symbol Hawkin’s Coat appears in Piers Plowman. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Passus XIII
Corruption Theme Icon
...their journey, Patience, Conscience, and Will come across a wafer-seller named Hawkin, or Activa Vita. Hawkin’s coat is splattered with stains, like a “spot of insolent speech” or “stubborn will.” Conscience politely... (full context)
Passus XIV
Corruption Theme Icon
Penance and Repentance Theme Icon
...he has a wife and kids, and they all spill on his clothes, too. Although Hawkin’s coat has been “laundered in Lent,” he still can’t manage to keep the coat clean for... (full context)