When a writer personifies a certain abstract idea they rarely give it a literal body, Piers Plowman does. However they are not physical in predictable ways: one might think that gluttony wold be depicted as an over gorged lord (as is often the depiction), but the the writer choses to challenge the audience by making these sins physical. Envy comes forth and describes himself as thin, he says “I haven’t been able to eat, for many years, as a man ought to do, Because envy and bad feeling are hard to digest.”(120-1) Personally I’ve never thought of envy in this way but the implication is crystal clear. Envy makes one endlessly hungry because an envious individual cannot sustain himself of his own accomplishment.The author does not offer a literal translation of the sin as we might (he was pea green with envy). Rather the sin becomes a physical ailment, a disease, symptom.
Likewise, “Wrath wakes up with two white eyes,” as if he is blind. Strangely Wrath is so physical that he can walk among friars and priests; he even has an aunt who was once a nun, he works in the kitchen. Wrath is not separate from humanity as so many others, even Envy seems to stand aside and covet. Wrath walks among man he says “I, Wrath, never rest/ But follow these wicked folk, for such is my lot.” (150-1) Wrath is a servant with white eyes. He has no leadership no agency. Yet we often think of anger as a powerful and self assured sin. We do not think of anger as a servant.
Essentially, my point is that these poems use personification to humanize and complicate sins. Repentance is in real conversation with sin. The poem feels remarkably human.