Abstract

This article considers the ambiguity underlying Conscience's call for vengeance in the final lines of Piers Plowman (B.20.385–86). Thorough analysis of Langland's treatment of vengeance as a form of justice elsewhere in the poem reveals a process of redefinition that transforms vengeance from a violent act of retributive justice to a tempered act of restorative justice. By contextualizing this process within the popular literature and influential moral theology of Langland's day, one discovers a theory of justice that includes a considered awareness of human psychology, specifically the influence of negative emotions like hatred and anger. Viewed in light of these factors, Conscience's call for vengeance becomes a cry for mercy and love in society.

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