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date: 28 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This article discusses the Marprelate controversy. The Martin Marprelate tracts are a series of six pamphlets and a broadsheet printed on a secret press between October 1588 and September 1589. They attacked the Elizabethan church, particularly church government by bishops (hence the pseudonym, Mar-prelate), and argued on behalf of an alternative, Presbyterian system. The tracts sparked a nationwide manhunt, accompanied by a multimedia campaign in which church and state joined forces to counter the influence of what Martin and his opponents both termed ‘Martinism’. At the time and down the centuries, most commentators on the Marprelate controversy denounced the tracts as base, scurrilous invective. However, beginning in the later nineteenth century, pioneering research by scholars such as Edward Arber, J. Dover Wilson, R. B. McKerrow, and William Pierce won the tracts a new reputation as some of the finest Elizabethan prose satires, worthy of their own chapter in the literary history of the sixteenth century.

Keywords: Martin Marprelate, pamphlets, broadsheet, Elizabethan church, church government

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