The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Clopper, Lawrence M. "Langland's Franciscanism." 25 (1990): 54-75.
Though Piers Plowman is admitedly anticlerical, it also participates in the Franciscan debate about the definition of poverty and the propriety of learning for Franciscans. The differences between the two treatments of the clergy revolve around begging. Mendicants begged for a living because they were poor. Unfortunately, because of Langland's portrayal of friars, readers tend to look at all of the Dreamer's meetings with friars as negative, though the friars whom the Wanderer meets on his way to Dowel tell him the truth, and the friars at the beginning of the Vita try to convince Wanderer to lead a moral life. The confrontation between the Wanderer and the friars is designed to show the contrast between his condition and the poverty he applauds as Rechelessness attempts to do. In the end, Will must answer whether he took charity for his needs or merely to become richer. Though Nede's second appearance creates a problem, the moment can be viewed as an allegory of the relationship between the Franciscan order and the church. Ultimately, Langland presents a challenge to the Franciscans to abide by their rule and so to "usher the Church into its last age" (70).