Martin Marprelate

Pseudonym shared by anti-episcopal authors in the late 1500's

Martin Marprelate was the pseudonym used by the author or authors of the Marprelate tracts, a series of satirical attacks on the Anglican episcopacy which were published illegally during the years 1588 and 1589. The tracts have at various times been attributed to John Penry, Job Throckmorton, Henry Barrowe, Sir Roger Williams and other figures.



The Martin Marprelate Tracts (2008)


Quotations are cited from Joseph L. Black (ed.) The Martin Marprelate Tracts (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), to which page-numbers also refer.

  • Our lord bishops…that swinish rabble, are petty antichrists, petty popes, proud prelates, intolerable withstanders of reformation, enemies of the gospel, and most covetous wretched priests.
    • "The Epistle" (October 1588), p. 10.
  • I saw the cause of Christ's government, and of the bishops' antichristian dealing, to be hidden. The most part of men could not be gotten to read anything written in the defence of the one and against the other. I bethought me therefore of a way whereby men might be drawn to do both, perceiving the humors of men in these times (especially of those that are in any place) to be given to mirth. I took that course.
    • "Hay any Work for Cooper" (March 1589), p. 115.
  • The Lord being the author both of mirth and gravity, is it not lawful in itself for the truth to use either of these ways, when the circumstances do make it lawful?
    • "Hay any Work for Cooper" (March 1589), p. 115.

About Martin Marprelate

  • Martin himself had of course a serious intention and must, for all his motley, be regarded as a heroic figure. Nor have I any sympathy with those who make prim mouths at him for introducing scurrility into a theological debate, for debate was precisely what the bishops had suppressed. Those who refuse to let their opponents dispute have no right to complain if they hear instead lewd catcalls in the streets; in a sense, it is what they have chosen.
    • C. S. Lewis English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, Excluding Drama (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1959) p. 405.
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