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Piers Plowman

3.42  ·  Rating details ·  2,599 ratings  ·  91 reviews
Astonishing in its cultural and theological scope, William Langland's iconoclastic masterpiece is at once a historical relic and a deeply spiritual vision, probing not only the social and religious aristocracy but also the day-to-day realities of a largely voiceless proletariat class. E. Talbot Donaldson's translation of the text has been selected for this Norton Critical ...more
Paperback, 644 pages
Published March 1st 2006 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1360)
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3.42  · 
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Piers Plowman is a 14th century middle English poem, it comes down to us in 60 manuscripts in four versions logically known as A, B, C and Z (view spoiler). In the 16th century it appeared in print, today you can read in it in translation (verse or prose) or in middle English with gloss, glossary, or facing page translation, in a melange of the different versions or a facsimile of a single one.

The poem itself consists mo
Mar 17, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After approximately a year of wading through Middle-English alliterative verse at an average rate of approximately one page per day, I have finally come to the end of The Vision of Piers Plowman. So was it worth it?

Yes! It is by some stretch my most ambitious undertaking in regard to reading Middle-English; I have not read two of the Canterbury Tales together and have only read about half of it (by number of lines - many fewer than half the Tales) and that's the limit of my Chaucer. I've never
Douglas Wilson
Sep 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating glimpse of a very different mental world. I was particularly struck by this very medieval assumption that the Antichrist was going to form in the papacy.
Jul 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
"As on a walnot withoute is a bitter barke,
And after that bitter barke, be the shelle aweye,
Is a kirnelle of conforte kynde to restore.
So is after poverte or penaunce pacientlyche y-take:
Maketh a man to have mynde in Gode and a grete wille
To wepe and to wel bydde, whereof wexeth mercy,
Of which Cryst is a kirnelle to conforte the soule."
-Passus XI Lines 260-266

I'm rewriting this review since I've had a lot more experience with medieval literature up to this point and I really can't help but feel
Oct 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a very difficult book! The work is composed of a series of allegorical dream visions and visions within visions. On the first reading it is hard to identify any clear structure, but the lack of clarity is in part a literary device meant to present the reader with the same confusion as the dreamer/narrator, or Piers Plowman experiences. It is not always clear whether what the characters say is to be believed, although some are more trustworthy than others. Each vision and conversation is ...more
Mar 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
This was my first real taste of medieval literature, and I enjoyed it! Mainly I liked this book's alliterative poetic style, and its unique look at the doctrines of the Christian church in the form of allegorical characters. I read the Donaldson alliterative verse translation, with edits and notes by Kirk and Anderson, so the language and spelling was modern, though not unnecessarily so. The notes were tasteful and helpful-- they boosted my understanding of what was happening, and introduced me ...more
Paul Gaya Ochieng Simeon Juma
I think this is the only book written by William Langland. What I love so much about it is his discontent with the earth as it is. Its inhabitants are narrowly concerned about the welfare of others while caring so much about themselves. Langland is greatly disturbed by this state of affairs and tries to teach and encourage his fellow beings to shoulder the burdens of one another and help our fellow creatures in the spirit of friendship. Those were strenuous times, and indeed they still are. That ...more
David Sarkies
Jul 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lover's of medieval literature
Recommended to David by: My Bible college
Shelves: christian
A medieval allegory of the Christian Journey
10 September 2010

My first impression of this book was that it reminded me a lot of Pilgrims' Progress, however it is nowhere near as simple or as straight forward as John Bunyan's text. In fact, having been written three hundred years earlier, not only does the text need to be translated, the period in which it was written is vastly different. Where Pilgrim's Progress is about a man's Christian journey, Piers the Ploughman is about a man who goes on a
Jul 04, 2012 is currently reading it
I'm actually reading an older translation by Henry Wells, which is probably much less accurate than the Norton edition but is fantastically bizarre and wonderful in its own right. Someone had a good old time making it.
A randomly chosen example:

"I bought her barley malt, and she brewed it for the traffic;
Penny ale and pudding ale were poured together
For labourers and poor folk;--she laid that aside.
The best was in the ben or in my bed-chamber;
Whoever took the bung from that, bought it thereafte
Stephanie Smith
Oh Goodreads, how I wish you allowed non-whole number ratings! Alas, I cannot give "Piers Plowman" my honest rating of 2.5 stars.
I was originally going to round my rating down to 2 stars, but then I remembered a certain character mentioned in the beginning of Passus IX. Now my rating is 3 stars, thanks to the "haughty horseman of France."
Piers Plowman is a difficult text to read and to attempt to understand. Personally, I prefer reading it in a modern prose version instead of poetry.
The poetry maintained its original Middle English alliteration, which made it very beautiful to read aloud, but difficult to understand the arguments made.
Sep 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature
I read this as part of a high school 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.

If you can force yourself to get past (or rather, appreciate) the style of writing, it's an incredibly worth-while read!
Sep 05, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
Strive for "do best."
Simon Mcleish
Mar 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Originally published on my blog here in July 1998.

Although I was able to read Geoffrey Chaucer in the original Middle English with only the help of a (fairly comprehensive) glossary, I'm glad I got hold of Piers Plowman in modern English. Judging by the excerpts given in this book, it is considerably more difficult to read, mainly because it is written in a Midlands dialect which didn't provide the basis for later literary English as Chaucer's language did.

The text of Piers Plowman is considerab
Jan 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The use of allegory in this work is simply incredible. The extend to which the technique skillfully formulates and questions each character (power) relation in the text, forcing the reader to engage on ever more multi-facetious levels, only serves to add to the amazement that, in the hundreds of years since this work was written, we have neither surpassed it, nor truly recognised its brilliance. An argument against the period as an intellectual 'dark ages' in itself.
Nov 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: stuff-i-love
I love Piers Plowman. There. I said it. It pulls you in without your realizing that you've been pulled in. The poetry is lovely--very good alliterative art--and it adds to the surreal feel of the narrative, which is so vivid that you live it as you read it. The theological and doctrinal points of the poem may not be a modern audience's cup of tea, but they are well-articulated and they make you think.
Feb 05, 2012 rated it liked it
Historically significant, this text well depicts the day to day struggles of a common man with no voice and no power. I found the text slightly tedious due to the religious/spiritual context and the allegory that i could not completely relate to. An important work nonetheless and one that I am glad to have plowed through.
Sep 28, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: college
I had to read this for my medieval visions class. It is difficult to get through, but once you do, the themes are interesting.
Jun 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Get off my lawn, Slothe.
Sep 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the only medieval text that has ever made me cry. Read it over a year with wine and cheese and you will find it amazing.
Ernest B. Gilman
May 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Astonishing. What a work. I was first loaned this text in 1963 by a fine young thing on the floor of my college dormitory. I identify with Piers. Here’s some analysis: “The tower represents Heaven and the fortress represents Hell. Between both places is a 'field full of folk' representing the world where the man lives. Piers, a virtuous plowman, becomes the guide to truth for the poet. Some men decide to go on a pilgrimage and discuss religious matters.” I found myself constantly in flux, and tu ...more
Hannah Mead
I honestly struggled with this book - probably due to having to rush through it. I never really connected with it, and I felt like the plot was rambling and almost non-existent. However, the theology was on point (pre-Reformation, but very ahead of its time - anti-indulgences and pro faith etc) and I appreciate the revolutionary aspect of it quoting Bible verses left right and centre (very unusual for a Medieval book to have such access to the Bible... Thanks John Wycliffe!). It is a very unique ...more
Jun 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read portions of this book on the recommendation of my teacher to flesh out a paper I was writing.
The course was on religious heresies in the Middle Ages and I was writing my paper about the 1381 Peasant's Rebellion. The poll tax riots were on the front page of the New York Times and comparisons seemed quite timely between what was going on in Thatcher's final days and what had transpired during the reign of Richard II. My main interest in this book then were the descriptions of daily life of
Michael Brenyo
Aug 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book is a little dry and the metaphors are basically a hammer hitting you over the head again and again. The best part is seeing how much seething hatred and rage he has for the hypocrisy he had to witness and endure. It was probably incredibly frustrating; so much so that he wrote a book about it!
May 13, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not entirely sure what happened but there was a guy called Will who imagined this guy Piers Plowman who was basically a common man closer to god and Christ than any clergyman or aristocrat. So yay Marxism but also confusing as hell.
Oct 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: middle-ages
Part of my two year Middle Ages program.
I skimmed the last several passus but at least I turned all the pages?
Mar 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Besides being a seminal classic of early English, it is a fund of information about the reality of life in the middle ages in Europe.
Feb 20, 2017 rated it did not like it
Sep 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Interesting but don't expect to read it quickly. I think a few more reads might get me on track with this but for now, laity devotional reading and even applicable to Christianity today. The version I read was Oxford Classics B Text and found it an easy enough version to follow translated from Middle English but must be quite beautiful in its original form. This is a very long poem divided up into separate visions which follow a theme of what it means to live authentically Christian. It is a cul ...more
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William Langland, (born c. 1330—died c. 1400), presumed author of one of the greatest examples of Middle English alliterative poetry, generally known as Piers Plowman, an allegorical work with a complex variety of religious themes.

One of the major achievements of Piers Plowman is that it translates the language and conceptions of the cloister into symbols and images that could be understood by th
“And what a tree took away a tree shall restore” 3 likes
“detraction. He made his living by slander and” 0 likes
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