Piers Plowman Characters
by William Langland

Start Your Free Trial

Piers Plowman Characters

There are several characters in Piers Plowman, mainly figures who act as allegorical representations of virtues or vices (ex. Conscience represents conscience, Reason represents reason, etc.). However, some of the characters are more prominent than others and I shall list them below.

Download Piers Plowman Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Will the Poet is the poem's speaker. He is the one who dreams the major allegorical episodes of the story and as such is a sort of everyman figure the audience can relate to throughout these visions. He seeks to live his life according to the dictates of medieval Catholicism and his visions show him how to live justly in the eyes of the Church.

The titular Piers Plowman is an allegorical stand-in for Jesus Christ and a living example of true Christian morality. In the second vision, he has the repentant Seven Deadly Sins help him plough his fields. In subsequent visions, he is shown as a Good Samaritan and earnest advocate of the true Christian lifestyle, which has a great deal to do with cultivating holy virtues. He explains certain theological concepts to Will as well.

Lady Holy Church represents the medieval Catholic Church. When Will encounters her in the first vision, he asks her how to save his soul. She tells him he must seek Truth and then explains what Truth is in the context of the Church.

Lady Mede is a duplicitous character representing corruption and greed; however, there is an ambiguous bent to her character. "Mead" can be used to describe bribes or just rewards, which is why the King suggests Lady Mede marry Conscience, since united with a sense of morality and rightness, Mede would be able to be used for good. However, Conscience's final firm rejection of her (which is backed up by the character Reason) suggests the poem does not find the possible benefits of "mead" worth the risk of becoming corrupt with worldly goods and pleasure.

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Piers the Plowman

Piers the Plowman, the hardworking, sincere, and honest plowman who with each appearance in the poem becomes more clearly an incarnation of Christ. In the poet’s second vision, Piers volunteers to lead the assembly of the seven deadly sins to Holy Truth and thus earns a pardon for himself and his heirs forever. The third vision of the poet concerns Piers’s quests for the states of Do-Well, Do-Better, and Do-Best. Piers also explains the Tree of Charity and the nature of the Trinity of God to the poet and appears as the...

(The entire section is 572 words.)