William Langland ‘The Visions of Piers Plowman – Passus 18’ ctd.

After Jesus’ death, Faith begins to curse Jews in what seems to be a standard medieval outburst of antisemitic sentiments: it was not honourable of them to send a soldier stab him after death, and for that reason they are going to be cursed forever and doomed to earn their living by sinful usury etc. The footnotes in the NAEL say that in other passages Langland could have a fairly enlightened attitude towards Jews, for instance setting them as an example of charity. I guess the general atmosphere of the times is hard to shake off even for the brightest minds. And let us know forget that all Jews were expelled from England by King John a century earlier, so Langland (unless he had some secret life full of travels we know nothing of) knew Jews only by hearsay. Fortunately, after this unfortunate passage he says he got scared and moved to another vision. In this one he sees the four figures from Psalm 85: Mercy, Truth, Righteousness and Peace. But interestingly enough, he starts by presenting them as rather at odds with one another: Truth asks Mercy about the reasons for all this noise, Mercy tells her the whole story of salvation, but Truth is a bitter realist: there is no redemption, the Old Testament says so, all the patriarchs from Adam and Eve are still in hell. Then Peace arrives, bringing similarly joyful news, but Truth and Righteousness don’t believe her.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s