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Reference: NLW MS 733B

The content of Piers Plowman

The poem is divided into seven sections called passus ('step' in Latin). At the beginning the narrator, Will, falls asleep while wandering on the Malvern Hills and the poem then describes the series of visions which appear to him. These are allegorical, and raise questions of morality, theology and the Christian life. Piers the Plowman first appears in the second vision, as a pilgrim leading others on the road to salvation, but later becomes a Christ-like figure himself. Langland, who must have spent the last twenty years of his life revising his work, is thought to have lived in the Malvern area and later in London. He was probably a cleric.

The history of Piers Plowman

NLW 733B was acquired by the National Library in 1913 from Plas Power, Denbighshire, home of the Lloyd family. It may perhaps have come into the family's possession through Thomas Lloyd (c. 1673-1734), the Welsh scholar and lexicographer who spent his last years there and, like NLW MS 735C (Medieval Astronomy), this could be one of the 'three or four old manuscripts' mentioned in the 1778 catalogue of the library at Plas Power.

Further reading

  • Lawrence Warner, 'The Ur-B Piers Plowman and the earliest production of C and B', The Yearbook of Langland Studies, 16 (2002), 3-39.