Piers Plowman – Passus 5 – Experimental Modes

In class, we talked about how the mode in which Piers Plowman is written is experimental. It is written in three seperate revisions which gives the story a complex material life, the tale is not instanced once but revised and instanced in three different ways at the same time. Piers Plowman is also experimental because it is written as the retelling of a dream. Rather than the story existing in a dream world with no explanation behind its absurdities, the story exists within the wild and unconscious mind of the idle dreamer, living in the present as a Worcestershire plowman. Readers may have found that this perspective allowed the allegorical tales to resonate more deeply within the human psyche because this is where they are taking place in the story.

It would have been engaging to an audience exposed to all three parts in one sitting because the three revisions could be seen as three different dreams.  The dream world of a man would, in reality,  change, clarify or even become more cynical as they aged and wizened. This process of revelation could have been helpful to ease an audience deeper into the clarified spirituality that the author experienced over time.

Passus 5, The Confession of Sin certainly reminded me a lot of Everyman. The characters in this passus are Reason and the seven deadly sins, specifically Envy, Wrath and Gluttony. The author emphasizes some confessions by allowing the characters to be body-less (although they are described as moving physically and wearing clothing while they speak…physically) and confess how they have influenced people to act in a certain way (for example, the stew and gossip scene that Wrath describes). Of course, the tone of the passus would allow the reader to re-interpret this scene in many different ways, it could easily be placed in a “realm” suspended from the reality of the reader. A setting which exists in a suspended reality that contains constant connections to an incredibly familiar reality allows the reader very free interpretation.

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