Piers as a Christ-Like Figure

In reading Passus 7 and Passus 18, I am reminded of the use of plowmen in medieval literature. Like Langland, Chaucer uses a plowman to represent one of the good guys in his Canterbury Tales. Perhaps it is the assumption that a plowman works hard, is diligent, honest and relatable that makes him a suitable candidate for representing a “good” character in a story. Langland uses the plowman in an especially interesting way. In Passus 18, I got the sense that Piers the Plowman is intended to be a Christ-like figure. Passus 18 gives a detailed and recognizable story of Christ riding into Jerusalem and His crucifixion. Both stories are seen in the Bible, but Langland goes into less detail than we originally get in the Bible, and instead spends a lot of time focusing on the Harrowing of Hell, a story not depicted in the Bible but still well known. During his dream at the beginning of Passus 18, Will witnesses “Someone resembling the Samaritan, and somewhat Piers the Plowman” riding into Jerusalem (10-11). Faith explains to Will that “This Jesus will joust in Piers’s arms, In his helmet and his mail coat, human nature” (22-23). I had a difficult time knowing exactly what Faith means in this explanation, and I took it to mean one of two things: either Jesus is wearing a disguise of Piers while he jousts in Jerusalem, or Piers himself is acting as a stand-in for Jesus. Either way, it seems that Langland is using Piers in close reference with Christ, and Piers is intended to be understood as a Christ figure who helps guide Will through his theological allegory, in search of what it means to live a good Christian life.

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