Martin Marprelate

Martin Marprelate

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Martin Marprelate was the name used by the anonymous author
Author
An author is broadly defined as "the person who originates or gives existence to anything" and that authorship determines responsibility for what is created. Narrowly defined, an author is the originator of any written work.-Legal significance:...

 or authors of the seven Marprelate tracts
Marprelate Controversy
The Marprelate Controversy was a war of pamphlets waged in England and Wales in 1588 and 1589, between a puritan writer who employed the pseudonym Martin Marprelate, and defenders of the Established Church....

 which circulated illegally in England in the years 1588 and 1589. Their principal focus was an attack on the episcopacy of the Anglican Church
Anglicanism
Anglicanism is a tradition within Christianity comprising churches with historical connections to the Church of England or similar beliefs, worship and church structures. The word Anglican originates in ecclesia anglicana, a medieval Latin phrase dating to at least 1246 that means the English...

.

Background


In 1583, the appointment of John Whitgift
John Whitgift
John Whitgift was the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1583 to his death. Noted for his hospitality, he was somewhat ostentatious in his habits, sometimes visiting Canterbury and other towns attended by a retinue of 800 horsemen...

 as Archbishop of Canterbury
Archbishop of Canterbury
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury. In his role as head of the Anglican Communion, the archbishop leads the third largest group...

 had signalled the beginning of a drive against the Presbyterian movement in the church, and an era of censorship
Censorship
thumb|[[Book burning]] following the [[1973 Chilean coup d'état|1973 coup]] that installed the [[Military government of Chile |Pinochet regime]] in Chile...

 began. In 1586, by an edict of the Star Chamber
Star Chamber
The Star Chamber was an English court of law that sat at the royal Palace of Westminster until 1641. It was made up of Privy Counsellors, as well as common-law judges and supplemented the activities of the common-law and equity courts in both civil and criminal matters...

, the archbishop was empowered to license and control all of the printing apparatus in the country.

Identity and authorship


The true identity of "Martin" has long been speculated upon. For many years, the main candidate was John Penry
John Penry
John Penry is Wales's most famous Protestant martyr.-Early life:He was born in Brecknockshire, Wales; Cefn Brith, a farm near Llangammarch, is traditionally recognised as his birthplace. He matriculated at Peterhouse, Cambridge, in December 1580, being then probably a Roman Catholic; but soon...

, a Welsh
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

 preacher
Preacher
Preacher is a term for someone who preaches sermons or gives homilies. A preacher is distinct from a theologian by focusing on the communication rather than the development of doctrine. Others see preaching and theology as being intertwined...

 and author of several impassioned polemic
Polemic
A polemic is a variety of arguments or controversies made against one opinion, doctrine, or person. Other variations of argument are debate and discussion...

s against the state of the church. In 1981 Leland Carlson suggested that a Warwickshire
Warwickshire
Warwickshire is a landlocked non-metropolitan county in the West Midlands region of England. The county town is Warwick, although the largest town is Nuneaton. The county is famous for being the birthplace of William Shakespeare...

 squire
Squire
The English word squire is a shortened version of the word Esquire, from the Old French , itself derived from the Late Latin , in medieval or Old English a scutifer. The Classical Latin equivalent was , "arms bearer"...

 and Member of Parliament, Job Throckmorton
Job Throckmorton
Job Throckmorton was an English religious pamphleteer and Member of Parliament. Possibly with John Penry and John Udall, he authored the Martin Marprelate anonymous anti-clerical satires; scholarly consensus now makes him the main author.-Life:He was of the Warwickshire gentry, resident at...

 was the primary author and that Penry assisted him.

The tracts had to be printed in secrecy, and some sort of organisation was involved to handle their production and distribution. Penry was definitely involved in the printing, and the press was frequently relocated to different parts of the country in order to avoid the authorities. Penry himself denied any involvement in the actual authorship.

Official reaction


The government was concerned enough at the virulence of the attacks on the ecclesiastical hierarchy to respond in kind, hiring professional writers such as Thomas Nashe
Thomas Nashe
Thomas Nashe was an English Elizabethan pamphleteer, playwright, poet and satirist. He was the son of the minister William Nashe and his wife Margaret .-Early life:...

, Robert Greene
Robert Greene (16th century)
Robert Greene was an English author best known for a posthumous pamphlet attributed to him, Greene's Groats-Worth of Wit, widely believed to contain a polemic attack on William Shakespeare. He was born in Norwich and attended Cambridge University, receiving a B.A. in 1580, and an M.A...

 and John Lyly
John Lyly
John Lyly was an English writer, best known for his books Euphues,The Anatomy of Wit and Euphues and His England. Lyly's linguistic style, originating in his first books, is known as Euphuism.-Biography:John Lyly was born in Kent, England, in 1553/1554...

 to write counter-tracts. Like most polemics, the tracts are full of hatred of their opponents, describing the bishops as representing the Antichrist
Antichrist
The term or title antichrist, in Christian theology, refers to a leader who fulfills Biblical prophecies concerning an adversary of Christ, while resembling him in a deceptive manner...

, and equally convinced of the righteousness of their own cause. The most prolific and effective of the anti-Martinists went by the colorful sobriquet, "Pasquill Cavaliero
Pasquill Cavaliero
Pasquill Cavaliero is the name adopted by a pseudonymous defender of the Anglican hierarchy in a 1589 English political and theological controversy. The controversy is known to historians of Early Modern England as the "Martin Marprelate episode" after "Martin Marprelate", the nom de plume adopted...

," traditionally believed to have been written by Thomas Nashe.

Later influence and interpretation


Some of the Marprelate pamphlets were reprinted in the seventeenth century, and an extensive scholarship has commented on their historical and literary significance. The anti-Martinist literature, including the Pasquill pamphlets, by contrast, has suffered from relative neglect by early modern scholars.

The Marprelate tracts are important documents in the history of English satire: critics from C. S. Lewis
C. S. Lewis
Clive Staples Lewis , commonly referred to as C. S. Lewis and known to his friends and family as "Jack", was a novelist, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian and Christian apologist from Belfast, Ireland...

 to John Carey
John Carey
John Carey may refer to:* John Carey , United States Representative from Ohio; member of the Ohio House of Representatives...

 have recognised their originality. In particular, the pamphlets show concern with the status of the text, wittily pastiching conventions
Convention (norm)
A convention is a set of agreed, stipulated or generally accepted standards, norms, social norms or criteria, often taking the form of a custom....

 such as the colophon
Colophon (publishing)
In publishing, a colophon is either:* A brief description of publication or production notes relevant to the edition, in modern books usually located at the reverse of the title page, but can also sometimes be located at the end of the book, or...

 and marginalia
Marginalia
Marginalia are scribbles, comments, and illuminations in the margins of a book.- Biblical manuscripts :Biblical manuscripts have liturgical notes at the margin, for liturgical use. Numbers of texts' divisions are given at the margin...

.

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