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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 333

William Langland's great Middle English poem from the 14th century comprises eight "visions," themselves divided 20 total passūs (Latin for "steps," which act as chapters). The poem, a commentary on greed and corruption, begins with the narrator, Will, falling sleep on a morning in May in the Malvern Hills (in modern Gloucestershire, England). While asleep, he sees a "Lady Church" that points out to him various residences of personifications such as "Truth" and "Care" that live in castles nearby. Lady Church points out a lady elaborately adorned with gold jewelry in nice clothing. Her name is "Money" and she is to be married to "False."

In his next (second) vision, Will encounters the personifications of the seven deadly sins, such as "Anger" and "Gluttony" and "Sloth." Positive personifications such as "Repentance" offer to advocate to God on behalf of these sins. Gluttony, for example, vows to fast.

Various stock personages such as merchants, priests, vagabonds, and scholars make an appearance and give the narrator advice on how to live a good life. Finally, the narrator resolves to find "Do-well," whose nature is explained to him by Piers the Plowman. Will begins looking for Charity, and has a dream (within the visionary dream that composes the narrative) that he finds the tree of Charity tended by none other than this Piers the Plowman. Piers the Plowman seems to Will to be Christ himself.

In the 18th passus, Will glimpses hell (ruled by Satan and assisted by Lucifer) during the point when the souls are released upon Christ's death. They try to bar the gates so that the penitent cannot leave; however, Christ's redemptive power is too strong, and hell's gates are opened.

After this, the narrator reaffirms the need to follow and glorify Christ in one's actions. At the end, the narrator grows old, and sees Lady Church undermined by a friar who doles out confessions for money. Conscience vows to go find Piers in order to enlist his help in aiding the church.

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