Shearing the Shepherds: Violence and Anticlerical Satire in Langland’s Piers Plowman
journal contributionposted on 2012-09-05, 11:52 authored by Ben Parsons
This paper examines the relationship between anticlerical satire and violence in Piers Plowman. It identifies a clear reluctance to involve aggression in complaints against the church: despite the prevalence of images of assault and injury in the poem, these are never extended to the priesthood, even though physical attack is often central in other medieval works satirising the clergy. The implications of this aversion are considered, both in terms of Langland’s stance as a satirist, and in terms of his conception of the church and its role in society. It is suggested that Langland’s hesitance at once marks the limits of his satire and underscores its radicalism, indicating dissatisfaction with mere localised attack; it is also argued that Langland’s separation of the church from violence might imply a stronger commitment to peace-making than many recent critics have allowed.
CitationMedium Aevum, 2010, 79 (2), pp. 218-235
Author affiliation/Organisation/COLLEGE OF ARTS, HUMANITIES AND LAW/School of English
- AM (Accepted Manuscript)