The Follies of Glutton

Image of Gluttony based on Dante's Divine Comedy.
Image of Gluttony based on Dante’s Divine Comedy (by WoodwardIllustration).

Langland’s Piers Plowman is a didactic poem that utilizes allegorical personification as a technique of engaging readers in an accessible form of contemplative knowing. A most notable example of this technique is the procession of sins in passus VI, which begins as a penitential reading, yet closes with a visceral personification allegory involving the sin of gluttony. There is a profound contrast between the ways in which gluttony is described in comparison with the other sins. The moment glutton is introduced there is a temporal shift, as well as a decisive move from the abstract noun to the personal noun.

Glutton illustrates the abstract ideas of overindulgence and vulgarity through his gestures, actions, and speech. The comical aspects of this passage entice the reader while also threatening to place him/her into the role of co-conspirator due to their indulgence in this superfluous narrative. This is when a reader is faced with the seriousness of the sin and the implications it comprises. The description of glutton is written in a facetious manner due to the common association of this sin being less severe than the other sins, yet Langland highlights that glutton is in fact perilous as it leads to the follies of waste and idleness.

The originator of sprung rhythm before the definition was attributed to this form of poetry.
The originator of sprung rhythm before the definition was attributed to this form of poetry.

A sharp temporal contrast occurs with the introduction of glutton: “Now Glutton heads for confession/And moves towards the Church, his mea culpa to say” (355-6). The previous sins reflected on past misdeeds and all assumed the position of reenactment, whereas glutton is in the role of performer. He does not just describe his emotions; he presents them to the reader. “ ‘To Holy Church’, he said, ‘to hear mass, /And then sit and be shriven and sin no more,’” only to be deflected from his path by the temptation of indulgence, “I have good ale, Glutton, old buddy, want to give it a try?” (357). He is in action, illustrating the breakdown of the body due to the sin of gluttony.

The overall work of Piers Plowman is not temporally concise, yet one of the main themes focuses on the waste of time, and Glutton is exemplary of this inaction. This passage provides an in-depth portrait of the dangers of wasting time. After fasting all day Friday, he heads to confession, yet loses his way in the tavern, Saturday and Sunday are lost in sleep, and then he wakes up on Monday feeling remorse and disgust. His revulsion is due to his past actions, whereas each reader now has the chance to absolve from the same fate by recognizing the aptitude to deflect from vice in favor of virtue. The temporal shift represents the continuity of superfluous acts as well as allowing the reader a chance to observe how facetious actions can be influential amongst man and leave society in a stupor of unproductivity.

The other sins in the Passus are described in an abstract manner while Glutton is represented in the flesh. From the beginning of the passage Glutton assumes a role and is a character in the narrative. This is a reminder of the vulnerability of flesh to turn toward sin, which is represented as an infectious ailment. Glutton is shown as a victim of sin and it becomes difficult to remember that the character in this narrative is a sin, and not a person. Also, his abstract qualities are acting on his personified, tangible representation.

The personification of the sin draws the reader into the narrative due to being swept up in the relation of events, but this is problematic as it allows for moments of passive recognition. Passive, in the sense that Glutton’s vulgarity tends to overshadow the seriousness of the passage and some would quickly dismiss the notion that he/she would act in such a base manner. When presented with an extreme, it is easier to deny the similarities or potential for the reproduction of follies. Yet, the flesh allocates man into the potential position for sin. Flesh represents weakness due to the inevitability of its destruction. “So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—for if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live” (The Holy Bible, Romans 8:12-13). “Live” means the time spent in heaven alongside God the Father, which will transpire if sinful temptation is purged from the body before it is too late to seek redemption (Judgment day). Though Glutton does not destroy his flesh in a literal manner, he is mangling his body through over consumption and distancing himself from the sanction of God’s laws. This is a stern reminder that when one exits the world, all that will be taken along is an individual’s acts while on earth. Failure to reject sin will not be forgiven in heaven if repentance was never requested while on earth.

Alongside Glutton are manifestations of the sin of Gluttony introduced in a manner representative of the individual and society.

Cissy the shoemaker sat on the bench,/Wat the game warden and

his drunken wife,/Tim the tinker and two of his workmen,/Hick the

hackney-man and Hugh the needler,/Clarice of Cock’s lane and the clerk

of the church…A fiddler, a rat-catcher, a street-sweeper and his helper,/

A rope-maker, a road-runner and Rose the dish-seller. (362-6;371-2)

Langland highlights the individual’s connection with society by listing each character alongside their occupation. This device is potent in reminding the reader that these are not mere individuals over-indulging in a tavern, but counterparts of society who have a responsibility to contribute to society through labor, yet have consciously ignored the responsibility in favor of quenching the appetites of the flesh. Numerous trades are introduced with each character, perpetuating the affect this wasted time will have on a society depleted of all facets of its contributors and resources. These laborers are now wasters, indulging their gluttonous appetites with ale and games. Though social interactions are an integral aspect of society, this description of the tavern represents socializing as a form of assimilation into a state of sin. Folkways are socially approved yet morally insignificant customs, whereas mores are strict codes of behavior with moral implications.

The actions in the tavern are respectful of the folkway as each individual is partaking in the action in a subgroup of society, but the mores of society are broken by all in choosing the sin of gluttony over the virtue of temperance. This group mentality is a concern of Langland’s and his inclusion of different types of trades implicates the society as a whole—immoral actions disguised as socially acceptable due to conformity—that will meet an apocalyptical demise if everyone forgets their responsibility as counterparts of society.

A couple of these manifestations of gluttony are conspicuous due to either their name or the connotation of their appellation. Line 367 introduces “Sir Piers of Pridie,” the same name of Will’s guide to truth who has not yet been introduced to readers (Piers is introduced during Passus VII, Line 182). Piers becomes a guide for Will while on his pilgrimage, but this appearance at this moment is subtle. Piers the plowman is a simple man who labors on the land and would not be addressed as Sir, but the usage of this title in the Passus is not meant in a literal sense, as presented almost 30 lines later. “And greet Sir Glutton with a gallon of ale” is used in a mocking tone and resonates as a form of poking fun at the upper-class members of society in the text, as well as Langland juxtaposing a decorative title alongside a sin as a means of implicating all strata of society (393). The possible demise of mankind cannot solely rest on the consciences’ of the laborers. Success is determined by a cohesive state of homeostasis involving all sects of society.

Another character introduced in the tavern is Clement, who is the only character—other than Glutton—to be mentioned four times, and denoting the implicit importance of Clement’s presence. “Clement the cobbler took off his cloak,” is how the character is introduced (376). A few lines down, “On condition that Clement should fill the cup,” then “And Clement the cobbler grabbed him by the waist/And in order to lift him up set him on his knees,” shows a continuation of Clement’s presence and interactions with Glutton (390; 409-10). Clement exits the passage—when Glutton’s over-indulgence is excreted in the form of vomit onto Clement’s lap—in an inconspicuous manner due to the lack of character descriptions in this passus. Yet, what resonates most is the symbolism of this character.

The definition of Clement is as follows: “Of persons, their actions, etc: mild and humane in exercise of power or authority; merciful, lenient, kindly, towards subjects or those in one’s power” (OED). Clement is present from when Glutton first arrives until the moment when he leaves the tavern. This manifestation is significant due to the reminder that God is an omnipresent figure always waiting to forgive and pardon sins, as well as acknowledging the power of his authority to strike down sinners if he choses to. This also sets up a visual hierarchy of God’s continuous watch over followers and sinners, while observing the continuity of sinful acts taking place. He continues to pardon his subjects with the knowledge that humans will inevitably continue the cyclical act of choosing sinful ways in favor of virtuous ones. The excretion of gluttony from the body is a physical depiction of the purging of sin onto the abstract representation of mercy in the form of Clement. Though Glutton does not reach a state of repentance, the actions—and excretions—that take place between Glutton and Clement are symbolic of God’s unwavering willingness to assist followers who chose to repent their sins.

The personification of Glutton as an apocalyptic force of destruction.
The personification of Glutton as an apocalyptic force of destruction.

The sin of gluttony is commonly viewed as a lesser sin with consequences that only affect the sinner, yet Langland uses this common stereotype to subtly introduce the extensive impact of this sin. The OED defines gluttony as the vice of over eating, an association thought of by most as being merely an act of excessive consumption. The deceptively harmless attributes of this sin are what make it dangerous and increase the likelihood of people falling victim to this vice. Glutton’s confession combines the facetious elements associated with this sin and the main point of the text concerning the necessity for labor:

To you God, I, Glutton, acknowledge my guilt/Of how I’ve

Trespassed with tongue, how often I can’t tell you,/Sworn

‘God’s soul and his sides!’ and ‘So helm me God, Almighty!/

…And overate at supper and sometimes at noon/ More than

my system could naturally handle,/And like a dog that eats

grass I began to throw up/…Beyond all reason, among dirty

jokesters, their dirty jokes to hear/For this, good God, grant

me forgiveness/For my worthless living during my entire

lifetime. (425-437)

There are many aspects of this confession that are childlike and innocent in revealing the ugly truths that most would attempt to suppress, but the most prominent point is the confession of “worthless living.” This is the entire point of Langland’s poem. The good guys are the laborers, whereas the bad guys are the wasters. The act of waste can pertain to numerous facets such as waste of skill, food, drink, or time. Glutton is guilty of wasting an excessive amount of time feeding his bodily pleasure but it is not solely physical consumption, which is the mistaken association most people assign to this sin. Glutton has wasted his’ time, his wife’s and daughter’s time, and he has taken the time of each member of society actively laboring to maintain a balanced society. A Glutton is devoid of the ability to comprehend the need for replenishment that must exist in preserving the resources of mankind. Glutton views the world from a “me” perspective and disregards the importance of maintaining balance among all of God’s creation.

Glutton's act of confession in the visionary text.
Glutton’s act of confession in the visionary text.

Glutton’s declaration of shame and disclosure of worthless living is a display of psychomachia. He is conflicted between insatiable want and the knowledge of responsible conduct. It is a battle of the soul that is best reflected through the personification of Glutton. When Glutton admits to his vices, he also reflects on the possibility of virtuousness. He does not contest the existence of these virtues, nor mock their worth, and relates a truthful confession, acknowledging his choice of vice as an alternative to virtue. In this penance he is verbalizing psychomachia. This is a staunch departure from the unrepentant stance of Pride, Envy, Wrath, Lechery, Covetousness, and Sloth. Their confessions are boastful of follies and mock the virtues; clearly none are engaged in psychomachia, as there is no conflict due to their abstract composition. They are intangible, do not contain a soul, and are relegated to the theoretical spectrum due to contrasting greatly with the personified sin of gluttony. The ability of Glutton to engage in psychomachia accentuates the possibility for man’s salvation. Time cannot be wasted; there is only one sin left for redemption, six have fallen and one is teetering on a fine line between salvation and damnation.

The epic battle between good angels of virtue and the bad angels of vice.
The epic battle between good angels of virtue and the bad angels of vice.

Time is a constant reminder of man’s mortality and due to this inevitable fact it is vital that man uses his time wisely while here on earth. Passus VI marks a significant shift in temporality with the introduction of Glutton in order to highlight the fleeting aspect of time and the need to live in accordance with God’s law, now. Passus XV is another more prominent reminder of the cruel, unavoidable, presence of time. Will has now found himself in old age, his body weak, his mind shattered, and left in a state of depression due to feelings of a failed pilgrimage for truth. Once Will is reminded of the necessity to utilize every aspect of self—mind, body, spirit—he is able to once again embark on a path of knowing. Though it could be said that his previous steps had been a waste of time due to finding himself in a worse state than when he began, the fact that he actively pursued a place of knowing emphasizes his success in laboring—in a spiritual sense—and doing God’s work. It is the process of discovery—not the actual achievement—that is the important emphasis of the text. Actions while on earth are the keys to a successful union with God both on earth and in heaven.

Will’s battered morale during passus XV is difficult to witness, especially when contrasted with the morally corrupt character of Glutton. Yet this passus is important in reiterating the connotation of his “character” as a representation of determination and resolve. All it takes is the temptation of good ale by Betty Brewer to derail Glutton from his path to Church for confession, while Will has endured countless setbacks along his quest that have resulted in a strengthened resolve. Though Langland does not end his poem on a note that makes Will’s sacrifices the obvious choice in reaping rewards while on earth, the theme reiterated through each passus is the necessity of honoring Jesus’ sacrifice—far greater than any sacrifice any human has endured—by continually moving toward God through labor and respect for creation. Glutton takes, yet never replenishes, whereas Will is a laborer attempting to seek enlightenment in becoming a better person through his search for understanding God’s intentions for mankind(while fulfilling his duties as a laborer). The disparity between Glutton and Will is the difference between Glutton’s desire for over-satiation and Will’s continual desire for spiritual redemption.

Image from William Langland's Piers Plowman (1390)
Image from William Langland’s Piers Plowman (1390), C-Text Version

Another insightful comparison to note is Glutton’s negligent manner in Passus VI in conjunction with his helpful action in Passus VIII:

            All the poor people then fetched peascods;/Beans and baked

apples they brought by the lapful,/And offered Piers this

present with which to please Hunger./Hunger ate it all in

haste and asked for more./For fear then poor folk fed Hunger

quickly/With cream and curds, with cress and other herbs./

By then the harvest drew near and new corn came to market/

And people were happy and fed Hunger deliciously,/And then

Glutton with good ale put Hunger to sleep. (316-24)

Hunger’s insatiable appetite is crippling the people’s harvest and placing the poorest individual’s in the most fragile position. Piers had called forth Hunger as a way of bringing forth work, but Piers cannot control Hunger who has ravished all resources. The one to stop Hunger is Glutton whose ale puts him to sleep. Ironically, Glutton is the hero of this passage but his actions were likely not driven by heroism but instead guided by an attraction to a similar personification such as his self. Luckily, Hunger’s insatiable appetite could not outlast Glutton’s insatiable appetite for ale, and Glutton was left to drink alone. Yet, this brief comical illustration of Glutton unknowingly saving the day is shattered by the realization that the wasters are still refusing to replenish what has been devoured by Hunger. This immediate mention of wasters reminds readers that Glutton is the personification of waste and mistaking him for an ally would be unwise.

Waste—a noteworthy character trait of Glutton—is shown in an all -encompassing manner (Passus VIII), as opposed to the seemingly contained waste that took place in the tavern (Passus VI). As Glutton and his cohorts indulge in ale and games, they waste both time and resources, but there is this explicit tone of mild reproach for this behavior with an implicit tone of warning. Passus VIII shows the idea of waste in an apocalyptical manner, leading to hunger, violence, and death. There is also a profound break in narrative.

I warn you workmen, get ahead while you can, Hunger’s:

hurrying this way as fast as he Can./He shall awake

through water, wasters to punish,/And before a few

years finish famine shall arise,/And so says Saturn and

sends us a warning./Through floods and foul weather

fruits shall fail;/Pride and pestilence shall take out many

people. (343-9)

The passus is no longer reenacting the hardships brought forth by hunger and idleness, but warning the reader of the possibility of damnation due to not partaking in labor. This threat would resonate clearly with a fourteenth-century reader who had witnessed famine firsthand. The inclusion of Glutton stirs the memory of a reader who had laughed at Glutton’s ill behavior but is now faced with the inevitable truth of the inherent destructiveness of this serious sin. The tendency to waste occurs on all levels, yet the danger of excessive waste leads to a depletion of resources integral to the survival of mankind. Serious situations such as this typically result in catastrophic acts of violence and hate—thus creating a porous situation in which other sins can creep in and mangle the situation to a corrosive state. The workers are the replenishers, but once things become so grave, imbalance occurs and sanity is replaced by hysteria. This threat of famine, lack of resources, is always lurking and can only be warded off by the contributions of all members of society. If the potential for gluttony to be curbed exists, there is also a potential to maintain healthy relations between all of God’s creatures.

Though Glutton does have dangerous qualities, there is still a possibility for redemption, as demonstrated in the juxtaposition of his confession with the confessions of the other sins. Glutton’s confession differs vastly from the other sins that relish their sinful ways and then either acknowledge their insincere feelings toward repentance or incriminate other’s as having driven them to the point of iniquity. “I, Pride, patiently seek penance;” is a very odd manner of addressing God, who then admits to being “unashamed of sinning against God and good men” (14-5). Then, “With heavy heart Envy asked for shrift/And cried ‘mea culpa,’ cursing all his enemies” (63-4). Envy expresses even less remorse than Pride and is too busy dwelling in past evil doings and cursing enemies than to concentrate on repentance.

Next, is Wrath, a sin described with animal like characteristics, who admits to reveling in sneaking up on enemies, striking them down and killing them—as stated during his confession (106-7). Lechery begins confession as such: “I, soul-guilty, confess me to God/of lecherous pleasures in my bodily sins,” which begins like a typical confession, but indulges too much in past misdeeds (175-6). Covetousness is first said to be indescribable, only to be described in an illustrative manner continuing for over 150 lines (the longest description of any of the sins, Glutton is the second longest with 90 lines). “I was never inclined to seek out sincerely/Mercy for my misdeeds; I mourned more often/For lost goods, believe me, than for bodily guilts;/Though I’d done deadly sin, I dreaded none as sorely/As when I’d made a bad loan or awaited an overdue payment” (273-6). Not one ounce of sorrow uttered by any of the confessions’ of these five sins who all reminisce about their sins as triumphant acts of splendor. There is an allure to their confessions that are more suggestive as invitations for potential participation by cohorts. Glutton’s narrative is not seductive in any manner and his confession evokes visuals of his excessive excretions and vulgar mannerisms, unlikely to enlist any willing partakers in his crude adventures.

Missing from the official sin procession is Sloth, whose repentance is divulged in Passus VII, yet he does make an inconspicuous appearance during Glutton’s confession: “And after all this excess he had a bout of sloth;” (417). This amalgamation of sins cannot be found in any of the other confessions, with the slight exception of Envy’s clenched fist in response to Wrath, but this is not the same as embodying another sin (66). Though gluttony and sloth seem logically paired it is also an allegorical personification of Glutton consuming another sin, just as man can harbor more than one sin. The ease in which Sloth slips into Glutton’s passage accentuates the plausibility of sins’ abilities to weaken the body to a state of permeability. Both are sins of the flesh and concerned with satiating personal delight as opposed to replenishing what has been taken. These sins are selfish on an individual level as well as a sociological level. Overindulgence and idleness—synonyms for wasters and joblessness—abuse the flesh and ravage a society dependent on individual contributions to affectively retain a state of balance.

The image of sloth from Medieval Art.
The image of sloth from Medieval Art.

As Glutton is capable of embodying another sin, so too can this personification entangle readers into his actions. This tactic of luring an audience into a narrative has been used in various ways. During Jesus’ crucifixion scene in the N-Town Passion Play, the audience becomes enmeshed in the action as they are called on to cheer for the crucifixion of Jesus. The paradox that exists is their cheering for both Jesus’ death and the salvation of all men, yet they cannot avoid the participation, as they would be viewed as blasphemous. This creates a difficult mediation on what it means to put all faith in a doctrine that appears to contradict its own teachings through horrific acts of violence against the body. Yet, this is the intended state of realization intended for the audience—it is an act against the superficial exterior (flesh) of man’s essence. A different type of technique was used during the York Plays.

The character of the devil would slither through the audience in dark garb and place himself around the common people of the town in a manner that would denote an unwanted alliance. This tactic also conjured strong reactions and feelings of revulsion, while making the individual more susceptible to the influence of the didactic material. The difference between these plays, drawing the audience into the text through vocal and proximal participation, is Glutton’s incorporation of the reader through his obscene mannerisms. What has carried forth as a devotional text now takes a sharp turn into the daily banter of a personified sin. This leads to the dangerous moment when the reader becomes more comfortable in the text due to the comical elements that can overshadow the magnitude of gluttony. Yet, there is a much deeper context at play in the intended reaction of the reader to find comedy in a sin and unwillingly partake in the action as opposed to rejecting the debauchery. This mode is less conspicuous than the reaction expected from the audiences of the medieval cycle dramas that evoke unequivocal emotions. As the cycle dramas were explicit in the arousal of emotions, Glutton is utterly dangerous and allegorical in reiterating the ease in which sin can seep into one’s being in an inconspicuous manner.

Example of a Mystery Play being performed in a town.
Example of a Mystery Play being performed in a town.

The reader is not only implicated through the expression of amusement in Glutton’s follies, but a more serious allegation occurs as the reader personifies Langland’s prominent theme of waste by indulging in the inane narrative. The sin procession begins as a penitential manual designed to guide people toward an understanding of the dangers of sin, yet the abrupt temporal contrast of Glutton’s personification of sin is meant to be a type of mirror held toward the reader. This is the moment of introspection that should take place in the mind of the reader. Though Glutton is the extreme case of waste and idleness, the reader taking part in the raunchy humor is also acting in a wasteful and idle manner. The intention is for the reader to contemplate their actions and possible folly, while arriving at the realization that there is time for repentance through the means of labor.

Langland explores this idea of introspection during passus V when he considers how his time has been misspent and wasted, wondering if God will give him the chance to utilize his time in a meaningful way. Also in this passage is a forewarning about the dangers of sin, “Pear trees and plum trees were puffed to the ground/As example, people, that we have to do better./Beeches and broad oaks were blown to the ground/And turned roots-upward as a terrible reminder/That before Doomsday deadly sin will undo them all” (118-22). There is a definitive move to connect the importance of time and the necessity for each person to partake in contemplating whether time has been utilized in a meaningful manner. Langland’s view of wisely utilized time is through labor—a reader is not engaging in labor, especially when it consists of laughing at a vulgar personified sin over indulging in an excess of drinking. The techniques of introducing the theme of contemplation are intentionally introduced before the procession of sins to evoke a form of self-revelation in the reader.

As Langland discusses his desire to utilize his time in a meaningful manner—through his medium of writing— his success in doing so will be in whether or not he inspires readers to contemplate their level of contribution. If this is accomplished, he not only displays his devotion in God by purporting the sanctity of labor, but he also inspires others to engage in didactic contemplation. On a paradoxical note, his most successful means of inspiration might be achieved if readers put down the poem and go out to work.

Visionary Texts were prominent during the Medieval ages to promote virtue over vice.
Visionary Texts were prominent during the Medieval ages to promote virtue over vice.

Langland’s poem is a didactic map that concentrates more on the actual search for knowledge than on the completion of the journey. This reiterates the importance placed on the act of labor. Partaking in the steps toward the acquisition of meaning is more important than the actual discovery. This reinforces the prominent theme of labor as a multi-dimensional model that incorporates spiritual, physical, and contemplative tasks as a composite scheme of living in a purposeful manner. In the pursuit of knowledge, Will must persistently contemplate numerous aspects and ways in which different facets comprise a representation capable of honoring God. The ending of the poem does not offer a sense of closure, but a feeling of continuity. This method of the poem highlights circularity of the unending pursuit, and this is a moment of realization that is uncomfortable, yet is accepted by followers whose faith in God is impermeable.

Labor, as a passage toward salvation, is a prominent theme in the Bible. There are numerous verses supporting this idea, yet Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians speaks directly to the theme of labor, as well as other ideas explored in Langland’s text:

For even when we were with you, we gave you this

Command: If any one will not work, let him not eat.

For we hear that some of you are living in idleness,

mere busybodies, not doing any work. Now such

persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus

Christ to do their work in quietness and to earn their

own living. Brethren, do not be weary in well-doing.

(The Holy Bible, 3:10-13)

This passage touches on themes of labor, waste, idleness, gossip, and spiritual toil. These negative aspects are the ideas personified by the character of Glutton—idleness, waste, gossip—that are highlighted as being dangerous. Gossip is a common trait amongst numerous sins and is represented through Glutton’s time in the tavern, as well as his insatiable appetite for pleasures of the mouth. Another interesting point is the connection between Langland’s theme of “do well,” and the mention of “well-doing” in the Bible verse. Langland uses the idea of do well to implicitly communicate the idea that the quest for do well is as important as the process of discovery. The pursuit of do well is found through the actions of labor. Paul’s letter is a warning to fellow Christians of their obligation to tend to the land and respect the gifts God has bestowed on them. If they do not respect all of God’s creation through laboring of the land, famine will fall upon them. This also echoes Langland’s forewarning of the dangers of sin in Passus V, as well as the apocalyptical tone of Passus VIII. The warning in Paul’s letter, mingled with the reminder of God’s willingness to grant the followers another chance, is a similar point reflected in Langland’s numerous references to the topic of repentance. Every severe outcome is presented with a positive alternative that allows for the possibility of mankind’s salvation as well as God’s disposition toward forgiveness.

The deceptively engaging narrative of Glutton garners attention due to the explicit visuals and palpable descriptions. It is the decisive temporal shift, alongside the personification of gluttony that connotes the importance of the narrative. The comical aspects exemplify the fallibility of the flesh and the ease in which sin is acquired. The fact that Glutton is related in a narrative, as opposed to a penitential description, represents a separation of this sin on three levels—tone, expression, and temporality. The personification assists in creating a space for introspection, yet the baseness of Glutton perpetrates this realm and reasserts the true nature of this sin in the mind’s of readers. What is to be reflected upon is the fact that this sin exists in every man, yet it is the responsibility of man to recognize and reject this vice in the favor of the virtue of temperance. This is not an easy task to undertake, and will remain a life-long task of man until the final Day of Judgment.

Works Cited

The Holy Bible. Revised Standard Edition. “Romans, 8: 12-13.” New York: Penguin, 1962. Print.

The Holy Bible. Revised Standard Edition. “Thessalonians, 3: 10-13.” New York:Penguin, 1962. Print.

Langland, William. Piers Plowman. C Version. Tran: George Economou. Philadelphia:Penn, 1966. Print.

OED, “Clement.” edu/view/Entry34154?redirectedFrom=clement&. 13 Apr.2014.

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I am an avid reader of all genres of literature. My favorite authors include: Woolf, Steinbeck, Langland, Donne, Faulkner, and Eliot. My goal is to become a fluent writer.
Edited by Munjeera, Piper CJ.

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  1. There’s something about archaic English poetry that I just adore.

  2. C-Hummel

    Great article Danielle. To say that I enjoyed Piers would be a lie on my part. I did not enjoy reading this as a whole; now, there were some parts that actually had my interest, but I found myself confused on many different occasions throughout the work. It is too much for my heathen mind, I am afraid!

  3. This surpassing even Chaucer and the Pearl Poet in complexity of language, but it is my all time favorite.

  4. Munjeera

    Wow! It’s been decades since I took English Lit and now I am missing these types of analyses. I really like your academic writing style and your insights Danielle. It makes me wish I had time to read up on the topics of your articles. One day…

  5. Explicitly socially and politically critical.

  6. This is the only medieval text that has ever made me cry. Read it over a year with wine and cheese and found it amazing.

  7. I need to build up my confidence in reading Middle English and this helped.

  8. I love this as much as Dante’s “Divine Comedy” or Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress.”

  9. Laura M.

    A thoroughly engaging book that I have shared with any students and practitioners of Middle English.

  10. You need some understanding of medieval theology to get through this, but anyone interested in the medieval world-view should find it fascinating.

  11. Armstead

    This was my first real taste of medieval literature.

  12. Erlinda

    Very interesting read… thanks for sharing it.

  13. I really dislike allegory most of the time (I’m with you, Tolkien).

    • Speaking about Tolkien, Danielle, any way I can convince you to do a Tolkien article? You are a GREAT writer.

  14. I respect Langland for creating such a delicate and intricate web of medieval society!

  15. Really mysterious piece of literature. Thanks for giving it some light.

  16. Reminds me a lot of “Pilgrims’ Progress”, although it’s nowhere near as simple or as straight forward.

  17. I am a fan of this approach to narrative verse as it adds colour and interest (makes the story poetic!) without the risk of the unvaried rhythm of iambic metre sending one to snooze-land prematurely.

  18. Lovely post and useful reading for anyone interested in the Reformation.

  19. Jong Amato

    I found the text slightly tedious due to the religious/spiritual context and the allegory that i could not completely relate to.

  20. Cornelius

    Nice post. I read this as part of an English assignment…I completely dreaded it from the moment I was given the assignment, and dragged my feet- but when I actually started reading, I completely fell in love.

  21. I like the alliterative poetic style, and its unique look at the doctrines of the Christian church in the form of allegorical characters.

  22. Ta Parish

    I very much like the fact that the author simply hates wealth.

  23. Arla Kemper

    We are lucky to have as much Middle English literature as we do and Piers Plowman is a fine example of it.

  24. Love this and i love how you found a way to display gluttony as an entity of itself rather than blending it with greed like most people do.

  25. Jaunita Prentice

    If you can force yourself to get past (or rather, appreciate) the style of writing in this poethry, it’s an incredibly worth-while read!

  26. Carrillo

    You have stretched my understanding/reading Middle-English…

  27. So many subtle hints about Biblical prophecies, analogies, and stories. You’ve given me the needed inspiration to read this again. Thank you.

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