Alternate Author Name(s)

Bernard S. Levy

Document Type


Date of Award



Langland, William, Piers Plowman, Middle English, 1100-1500, English poetry, Criticism and interpretation, Trinity in literature

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


English, General Literature, and Rhetoric

First Advisor

Bernard F. Huppe

Second Advisor

Robin Oggins


Dualities and trinities are everywhere in the poem, sometimes conflicting, sometimes not. They govern the poem in its largest structures, overarching the entire poem, and its smallest, often evoking an additional level of meaning in just a phrase. These groupings of two and three are not ornamental or arbitrary, but thematic; the meanings of the poem are inextricably bound up in them. It will be necessary,therefore, in what follows, to discuss meaning (theme) as much as structure. The meaning of Dobest, for instance, is dependent upon its being the third part of a trinity. The other two parts must in turn be dealt with, not as independent, dramatic sections of the poem, but as parts of a greater three~fold structure. Dobest, then, must be seen as, not just another Do or as the logical end of a progressive journey, but as the third part of a trinity, resembling in some way the third Member of the divine Trinity and His attributes. In the same way, it will be necessary to discuss, for instance, the meaning of hope so that its place in the triad, faith, hope, and charity, becomes clearer. The end, however, of the consideration of any of the poem's concepts, virtues, faculties, etc. will be the fitting together of theme and structure in an effort to see the poem more clearly as a whole.