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Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1516

Saints Alive! Falstaff, Martin Marprelate, and the Staging of Puritanism

Kristen Poole, Harvard University

In the early fifteenth century, a pious, innocent man was put to a most gruesome death—that, at least, is the story according to his sixteenth-century chronicler, the Protestant bishop John Bale. A faithful follower of John Wyclif and an avid reader of the Scriptures, this gentleman was a "moste valyaunt warryoure of Iesus Christ" who courageously battled that Whore of Babylon, the Roman Catholic Church:

In all adve[n]terouse actes of wordlye manhode was he ever bolde, stronge, fortunate, doughtye, noble, & Valeau[n]t. But never so worthye a conquerour as in this his present conflyct with the cruell and furyouse frantyck kyngedome of Antichrist. Farre is this Christen knyght more prayse worthye, for that he had so noble a stomake in defence of Christes Verite agaynst those Romyshe supersticyons, than for anye temporali nobylnesse eyther of bloude, byrthe, landes, or of marcyall feates.1

Against an onslaught of hostile questions from an archbishop and his prelates, those "spyghtfull murtherers, ydolaters, and Sodomytes," the Christian knight firmly stood his ground, bravely defending the opinions he had gleaned from the Gospel concerning the material substance of the Eucharist (merely symbolic), the sacrament of confession (invalid), and the efficacy of pilgrimages (pointless). But alas, the "bloud thurstye rauenours" that were his opponents sentenced him to death, and not a pretty one at that. The faithful prisoner, bound "as though he had bene a most heynouse traytour to the crowne," was carted from the Tower to St. Giles Field and a new pair of gallows. There he fell to his knees, praying "God to forgeve his enemyes." Standing, he "behelde the multytude" and exhorted them "to folowe the lawes of God wrytten in the scripturs" and to be wary of teachers that are "contrarye to Christ in theyr conuersacyn and lyvynge." Finally, the unfortunate was hung in "cheanes of yron and so consumed a lyve in the fyre, praysynge the name of God so longe as his lyfe lasted. In the ende he commended his sowle into the handes of God, and so departed hens most Christenlye." Adding insult to injury, his ashes, like those of his predecessor Wyclif, were unceremoniously tossed into the Thames.2

Writing in 1544, Bale intended to reveal the horrors of this particular inquisition; or, as he put it, to show "by this treatyse what beastlye blockeheades these bloudye bellyegoddes were in theyr unsauerye interrogacyo[n]s." As is evident from his conclusion, Bale also wished to establish this man as a Protestant martyr, one who had "a tryumphau[n]t Victorye ouer his enemyes by the Veryte which he defended," and who "dyed at the importune sute of the clergye, for callynge vpon a Christen reformacyon in that Romyshe churche of theyrs, & for manfullye standynge by the faythfull testymonyes of Jesu."3

The subject of Bale's account was the Lollard leader Sir John Oldcastle, Lord Cobham, best known to literary scholars as the model for Shakespeare's Sir John Falstaff. Oldcastle became a popular figure in Elizabethan England, his trial and death recounted in Foxe's Acts and Monuments, Stowe's Annales, Holinshed's Chronicles, and elsewhere.4 For some, Oldcastle was the valiant, victimized religious martyr we see in Bale's chronicle; for others, he was a devious, schismatic heretic and traitor who betrayed his friend and king, Henry V.5 Elizabethan puritans hailed Oldcastle as a protopuritan; as religious reformers traced the progress of their battle against the Antichrist, they frequently claimed Wyclif and his followers as the origin of their movement.6 Opponents of puritanism also located the source of...

(This entire section contains 1516 words.)

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this evil in the Lollards, using them as an example of puritan subversive heresy and sectarianism.

Shakespeare's audience readily identified Falstaff as a caricature of Oldcastle, and Falstaff appears to have been called "Oldcastle" in early performances of 1 Henry IV7 (The name was subsequently changed in order to placate the outraged Elizabethan Lords Cobham, or to appease a disgruntled Protestant audience that hailed Oldcastle as a hero.8) Even after "Oldcastle" was re-dubbed "Falstaff," extensive historical and literary evidence indicates that the public did not quickly forget the character's original and "true" identity. The name "Oldcastle" was retained for private (including court) performances, and many seventeenth-century authors indicate that "Falstaff was widely understood as an alias for the Lollard martyr.9 The oft-quoted Epilogue of 2 Henry IV ("Oldcastle died martyr, and this is not the man" [11. 31-32]—a protest that conversely indicates audiences did identify Falstaff as Oldcastle)—as well as the prologue to Drayton and Munday's 1600 counterrepresentation in The First Part of the True and Honourable History of the Life of Sir John Oldcastle, the Good Lord Cobham ("It is no pampered glutton we present, / Nor aged counsellor to youthful sin, / But one, whose virtue shone above the rest, / A valiant martyr, and a vertuous peer" [11.6-9]10) indicate that the Oldcastle-Falstaff transformation was considered common knowledge.

Recently, the decision of prominent editors to reinstate Falstaff's original name has resulted in significant editorial debate, leading critics to argue the textual ramifications of this "discovery."11 I must join those who contest this decision, as I do not believe it is the role of the modern editor to "retrospectively save a writer from the censor";12 the censors were there and are as much a part of the text's history and circumstances of production as economic and social factors. If "Oldcastle" were to become the predominant title for this character a hundred years from now, as Gary Taylor desires, the history of repression experienced by the Elizabethan stage (and indeed by the arts in general) could easily be overlooked; calling attention to the name "Oldcastle" while retaining the enforced name-change of "Falstaff," on the other hand, highlights this repressive control.

Such editorial discussions do not satisfactorily address the historical or theoretical implications of Falstaff's Lollard origins. Why, contrary to so many of the contemporary representations, did Shakespeare take the figure of this "noble Christen warryour" and mold him into the Rabelaisian, gluttonous coward of the Henriad? Conversely, why did he deviate so far from the alternative tradition of depicting Oldcastle as a bellicose heretic, a serious martial threat to king and state? Some critics maintain that "Shakespeare simply blundered"13—that he more or less picked a name out of a historical hat, a name that happened to have unfortunate political consequences. Others assert (somewhat more plausibly) that Shakespeare intended to satirize the Elizabethan Lords Cobham, Sir William Brooke or his reputedly less competent son and successor, Henry—descendants by marriage of the original Oldcastle.14 Neither of these answers seems satisfying. The notion of the playwright innocently and ignorantly choosing the name of a figure who had become hotly contested as a cultural icon by competing religious/ political factions does not seem likely. And while Elizabethan and Jacobean gossips seem to have reveled in the Falstaffian portrayal of a Lord Cobham, thus far scholars have established no clear motive for personal parody; rather, there were strong reasons to avoid conflict with William Brooke, then lord chamberlain and in control of the theaters.15

I suggest that we need to broaden the investigation by examining the Henriad in the context of Elizabethan polemical religious discourse. Such an examination reveals that Shakespeare's depiction of the Lollard Oldcastle was not a daring, radical, or innovative departure from the stereotypical image of the puritan, as critics have supposed. Nor is it, as J. Dover Wilson suggested, simply an ingenious modernization of the Vice character from earlier morality plays (although Falstaff's presentation is certainly indebted to this tradition).16 Rather, I believe that this presentation of Oldcastle is perfectly in keeping with the tenor of the antipuritan literature of the late sixteenth century, especially the anti-Marprelate tracts and the burlesque stage performances of the Marprelate controversy (1588-90), which frequently depicted puritans as grotesque individuals living in carnivalesque communities. Indeed, this lively portrayal of the puritan seems to have been much more popular than the lean, mean Malvolio image that post-Restoration readers and audiences (especially post-Hawthorne Americans) would exclusively associate with the term puritan, despite the fact that the official holiday celebrating puritans is one of nationwide gluttony.

In many ways Falstaff epitomizes the image of the grotesque puritan. Shakespeare's representation of a prominent Lollard martyr does not depoliticize Falstaff but transposes him into a register of religious/political language familiar to his Elizabethan audience. Harold Bloom has noted that Falstaff "is given to parodying Puritan preachers."17 Falstaff does indeed parody such preachers, but not just as an overweight, ungodly knight making barroom jokes about them; rather, the person of Falstaff is in and of himself a parody of the sixteenth-century puritan. Shakespeare's audiences would most likely have recognized Falstaff in the literary tradition of grotesque puritans that would continue with Jonson's Zeal-of-the-Land Busy and Middleton's Plumporridge. (Falstaff's very name, "False staff," could be read as a parody of such puritan names as More Fruit, Faint Not, Perseverance, Deliverance,18 and Jonson's Win-the-Fight.) In the late sixteenth century, carnival and the grotesque became the terms in which religious tensions between conformist Protestants and nonconformist puritans were constantly played out.


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The pamphlet war of "Martin Marprelate" and his adversaries marks the entrance of the puritan figure into popular literature. By the late 1580s the puritans' hopes of ecclesiastical reform had faded; "popish" vestments and ceremonies remained an integral part of the English church, and in 1583 the antipuritan John Whitgift had been appointed archbishop of Canterbury. As the desired reforms became more illusory, puritans such as the popular twentyfour-year-old preacher John Penry increasingly went underground, illegally publishing attacks on the bishops and nonpreaching (often nonresident) clergy. The church authorities felt the sting of these attacks and appointed John Bridges, dean of Salisbury, as their spokesman. But his Defense of the government established in the Church of Englande for ecclesiasticall matters (1587), a large quarto volume containing 1400 pages of "lumbering orthodoxy," did little to stop the flow of antiprelatical attacks. Early in 1588 Penry sallied forth with the Exhortation, a scathing assault on the bishops; in April of the same year the young John Udall challenged the episcopacy with The State of the Church of England laide open. The printer for many of these pamphlets was the puritan sympathizer Robert Waldegrave, whose printing press was finally seized and destroyed in the spring of 1588.19

According to legend, during the chaos surrounding the destruction of his press Waldegrave managed to escape with a box of types hidden under his cloak.20 Armed with these types newly acquired types press, Waldegrave was able to help launch the guerrilla pamphlet war of Martin Marprelate. In October of 1588, Marprelate's first clandestine tract, The Epistle, exploded onto the scene, quickly circulating in and around London. Intended as an introduction to The Epitome (a critical summary of John Bridges's Defense of the government), The Epistle hailed the "terrible priests" in a riotously irreverent and comic tone, a stark contrast to the stodgy pedantry of Bridges's work. Martin Marprelate (a pseudonym for one or more undetermined authors, most likely including Penry and/or Udall) informs his readers from the first that he must play the fool to respond appropriately to Bridges's text, "Because, I could not deal with his book commendably, according to order, unless I should be sometimes tediously dunctical and absurd."21 He asks in Hay any worke for Cooper: "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?" Martin recognizes the public's apathy regarding ecclesiastical controversy, and seeks a means to attract their attention: "perceiving the humours of men in these times … to be given to mirth. I took that course."22

While the text bursts with laughter—"Ha ha ha!" "Soho!" "Tse-tse-tse!" "Wo-ho-ho!"—the attack on the bishops is ominously real: "All our Lord Bishops, I say, are petty popes, and petty usurping antichrists," Martin writes in The Epistle. Marprelate's chief weapon is rollicking ridicule. Rather than confute the biblical basis and authority of an episcopalian church government (the standard approach of most puritan pamphleteers), he endeavors to mar the prelates with personal insults. He asks Stephen Chatfield, the vicar of Kingston, "And art thou not a monstrous atheist, a belly god, a carnal wicked wretch, and what not?" The personal foibles of parish ministers are related with unmitigated zest and extensive poetic license; Martin promises, "In this book I will note all their memorable pranks." Geoffrey Jones, a priest from Warwickshire and a regular at the local alehouse, became an exemplary victim of Martin's witty, sarcastic narration. Once, while frequenting the alehouse, Jones flew into a rage (Martin speculates that either he had been asked to settle his account or he had lost money gambling) and swore "he would never go again into it." "This rash vow of the good priest" was much to the dismay of the alewife, although Martin adds that "the tap had great quietness and ease thereby, which could not be quiet so much as an hour in the day, as long as Sir Geoffrey resorted unto the house." The priest, repenting his vow of abstinence, took advantage of a specific meaning of go as "to move on one's feet, to walk," and arranged to be carried to the alehouse on another man's back—thus circumventing his oath.23 Not only do Martin's cynical comments on this compromise mock Sir Geof-frey, but this episode becomes an allegory for the bishops' manipulation of Scriptural loopholes.

Martin inflicts the greatest harm on the clergy simply by not taking them seriously; for him nothing in the episcopacy is sacrosanct. He openly scoffs at Archbishop Whitgift (whom he hails with such names as "John Cant," "Dumb John," and "Don John"), accusing him of playing "the fool … in the pulpit." He mocks the bishop's miter with parodic titles such as "my horned Masters of the Convocation," and provides the bishops with helpful, moralistic "true" stories:

Old Doctor Turner … had a dog full of good qualities. Doctor Turner, having invited a Bishop to his table, in dinner-while, called his dog, and told him that the Bishop did sweat. (You must think he laboured hard over his trencher.) The dog flies at the Bishop and took off his corner-cap—he thought belike it had been a cheesecake—and so away goes the dog with it to his master. Truly, my masters of the Clergy, I would never wear corner-cap again, seeing dogs run away with them.

With this one tale, Martin inflicts more damage on the bishops' image than tomes of biblical exegesis could have accomplished. Now the bishops had not only egg on their faces but cheesecake on their heads; who could take them seriously? Here, as elsewhere, Martin proves himself a master of timing. With this ridiculous image of dog, priest, and cheesecake before the reader, Martin asks the bishops a pointed and sobering question: "May it please you … to tell me the cause, when you have leisure, why so many opinions and errors are risen in our Church, concerning the ministry?"24 The question becomes rhetorical. The bishops, represented as buffoons, are disempowered and cannot respond.

Martin's charm comes from what Christopher Hill termed a "witty, rumbustious, savage and extremely effective colloquial style."25 Marprelate has a vivid, first-person voice—part reporter, part neighbor, part preacher, part gossip. The Epistle contains abundant anecdotal accounts of the bishops' travesties, from not paying their bills to stealing cloth to bowling on Sundays. He claims to be gathering rumors and the sentiments of parishioners, printing the "reports" in their own words; he records popular opinion about the bishop of Gloucester, for example, who once "was endued with … famous gifts, before he was a bishop; whereas since that time, say they, he is not able to say 'bo!' to a goose." Martin even plays the comedian and does impersonations; here he mimics the bishop of Gloucester preaching on St. John, coming to "the very pith of his whole sermon": '"John, John; the grace of God, the grace of God, the grace of God. Gracious John; not graceless John, but gracious John. John, holy John, holy John; not John full of holes, but holy john.'"26 One can hardly help hearing the voice of Zeal-of-the-Land Busy.27

For the next twelve months, Martin continued to harass the bishops. Like a mosquito in a bedroom on a warm summer night, he could not be found; infuriated, the bishops swatted around the country and organized largescale hunts for the Marprelate press but always arrived just after it had stung and moved on. The Marprelate tracts were on their way to becoming "the biggest scandal of Elizabeth I's reign."28The Epistle was followed over the next nine months by five equally lively tracts, and the persona of Martin was joined by his sons, Martin Jr. and Martin Sr., who engaged in fraternal bickering after the younger brother took the liberty of publishing one of their father's manuscripts which he had "found" lying under some bushes, dirty, crumpled, and only partially legible.29

Judging by the official response, the Marprelate tracts were enormously popular. Christopher Hill observes, "Martin's rude, personalizing style appealed because it was subversive of degree, hierarchy and indeed the great chain of being itself. The shocking thing about his tracts was that their rollicking popular idiom, in addition to making intellectuals laugh, deliberately brought the Puritan cause into the market place."30 Not everyone, of course, found this an endearing quality; the bishops were confounded and the queen was not amused. Following publication of The Epitome, Richard Bancroft preached against Martin Marprelate at Paul's Cross, and Thomas Cooper, bishop of Winchester, wrote An Admonition to the People of England (January 1589) defending the episcopate and providing scriptural authority for the bishops' large incomes. Such counterattacks merely became fuel for Martin's fire, and he entitled his next pamphlet Hay any worke for Cooper (an echo of the common London street cry "Ha' ye any work for the cooper?"31) in the bishop of Winchester's honor. When paternalistic admonitions failed to quench Martin-mania, the tracts were categorically outlawed. Legal measures proved equally futile, however, and even the earl of Essex (known as a puritan sympathizer) allegedly waved a Martinist tract before his queen, demanding "What will become of me?" Martin reveled in the mischief he was causing; Martin Sr. tauntingly mimics the archbishop of Canterbury in The just censure, having him lament to his servants, "No warning will serve them; they grow worse and worse.… I think I shall go stark mad with you, unless you bring him in."32

These tracts confronted the bishops with a new breed of ecclesiastical enemy: the puritan wit. The Martin Marprelate author(s)—fiery young men such as Penry and Udall—were the puritan counterpart to the London wits. Indeed, at least one critic maintains that Martin Marprelate originated the grotesque comic prose of the 1590s.33 After futile attempts to take the Martinists by force, sermon, or dense theological prose, the bishops finally hired mercenaries who could challenge Martin on his own ground: John Lyly, Robert Green, Anthony Munday, and the young Thomas Nashe (Penry's schoolmate at Cambridge). These new arrivals studied Martin's style and learned to imitate it. For the next six months pamphlets were furiously penned by both sides, as colorful insults flew and each side lampooned the other with zeal and relish. New personae entered the scene (Mar-Martine, Pasquill, Marphoreus, Cuthbert Curryknave, Plaine Percevall the Peace-maker, and the sons of Martin the great, Martin Jr. and Martin Sr.) as the pamphlet war took on a plot of its own. Characters made personal challenges to other characters, formed alliances, and at one point rumors filled London that Martin was dead. (Martin's sons, the creation of the same author(s) as Martin himself, capitalized on these rumors, voicing fears in Theses Martinianae and The just censure that their father had been imprisoned by the bishops; Martin later reappeared to assure his readership that he was alive and well.) Martin was portrayed on the stage and became the target of broadsides; Marprelate was attacked by MarMartine, who in turn came under fire from Marre MarMartin. The controversy became so heated that Gabriel and Richard Harvey and Francis Bacon entered the fray, defending Martin against the anti-Martinists;34 and Sir Walter Ralegh, related by marriage to Job Throk-morton, a prominent figure in the Marprelate circle and possibly an author himself,35 undertook the release from prison of John Udall, who, unfortunately, died a few days later.

The anti-Martinists changed the tenor of the controversy by amplifying the grotesque undertones of the Martinist tracts. Throughout Martin's writing, there are elements of the carnival grotesque; the prelates, those "carnal and senseless beasts," "monstrous and ungodly wretches," revel with their "boosing mates" in a world of social madness and hierarchical inversion, where bishops become common laborers and Martin proclaims himself "the great." In The Epistle the bishops are "swine, dumb dogs, … lewd livers, … adulterers, drunkards, cormorants, rascals … [causing] monstrous corruptions in our Church." Martin blasts in Hay any work, "Horrible and blasphemous beasts, whither will your madness grow in a while, if ye be not restrained?"36 In the anti-Martinist tracts, however, elements of the carnival grotesque become explicit and predominant; Martin's own rhetorical strategies are turned against him with full force. In An Almond for a Parrai (1590), Nashe overtly asserts that he will attack the puritan "Hipocrites and belli-gods" by "imitating … that merry man Rablays."37 Throughout the anti-Martinist literature, Martin is "the Ape, the dronke, and the madde":38 he copulates, vomits, drinks, gorges himself, and gives birth.

Martin becomes, then, the Bahktinian grotesque body par excellence.39 Nashe and Lyly depict Martin and his "neast" as a swarm of monstrous, intertwined beings; death, birth, sex, and bodily functions are often simultaneous and inextricable. Witness Martin's birth, described in An Almond for a Parrai: "thinke that nature tooke a scouring purgation, when she voided all her imperfections in the birth of one Mar tin."40 In A Countercuffe given to Martin Junior (1589), the self-proclaimed cavalier Pasquill responds to the rumors of Martin's death: "If the Monster be deade, I meruaile not, for hee was but an error of Nature, not long liued: hatched in the heat of the sinnes of England.… The maine buffets that are giuen him in euery corner of this Realme, are euident tokens, that beeing thorow soust in so many showres, hee had no other refuge but to runne into a hole, and die as he liued, belching."41 Dying and hatching, belching at his death in the womblike recesses of a hole: the epitome of the grotesque, in which birth and death intersect. Again, consider Lyly's image of a birthing, dying Martin in Pappe with an hatchet:

I sawe through his paper coffen, that it was but a cosening corse, … drawing his mouth awrie, that could neuer speake right; goggling with his eyes that watred with strong wine; licking his lips, and gaping, as though he should loose his childes nose, if he had not his longing to swallowe Churches; and swelling in the paunch, as though he had been in labour of a little babie, no bigger than rebellion; but truth was at the Bishoppes trauaile: so that Martin was deliuered by sedition, which pulls the monster with yron from the beastes bowells. When I perceiued that he masked in his rayling robes, I was so bolde as to pull off his shrowding sheete, that all the worlde might see the olde foole daunce naked.42

A man in a coffin, feigning death yet childlike, giving birth through his bowels, masquing in a shrouding sheet: this, to many, was a late-sixteenth-century image of the puritan.

Such caricatures were soon translated onto the stage, much to the shock and disgust of the very bishops and city magistrates who had orchestrated the anti-Martinist attack. While texts for these theatrical entertainments have not survived (if they ever existed),43 both Martin and his foes repeadly and pervasively allude to the popular anti-Martinist lampoons. According to Pappe with an hatchet, Marprelate was mocked at St. Paul's by the choir children; at the Theater, a playhouse near Finsbury; and at Thomas à Waterings in Southwark.44 (Ironically, this last location doubled as a common place of execution, and Penry himself was later hanged there, convicted of writing the Marprelate tracts.45) Such performances appear to have been in the same tone as the prose tracts. Pasquill writes in A Countercuffe of "the Anatomie latelie taken of [Martin], the blood and the humors that were taken from him, by launcing and worming him at London vpon the common Stage." In another performance mentioned in The Return of Pasquill, the battered and scratched character Divinity is brought forth "holding of her hart as if she were sicke, because Martin would haue forced her." Unsuccessful in his rape attempts, Martin then "poysoned her with a vomit which he ministred vnto her." In other shows Martin was depicted as an ape (most likely inspired by the first anti-Martinist broad-side, A Whip for an Ape) and as Maid Marian.46

Martin claims in Theses Martinianae not to be disturbed by "the stage-players, poor, silly, hunger-starved wretches" who are willing to play "the ignominious fools for an hour or two together … for one poor penny." Indeed, he maintains the position that the "poor rogues … are not so much to be blamed, if, being stage-players, … they … have gotten them many thousand eyewitnesses of their witless and pitiful conceits."47 But such stage productions probably did not leave the anonymous author(s) of the Martinist tracts unscathed. While these theatricals may have backfired in their intent to squelch Martin Marprelate, they certainly hindered his voicing of serious theological and ecclesiastical concerns. Martin Marprelate was not only physically represented on the stage, but authors such as Lyly invited their readers to imagine Martin as an actor:

He shall not bee brought in as whilom he was, and yet verie well, with a cocks combe, an apes face, a wolfs bellie, cats clawes, &c.… A stage plaier, though he bee but a cobler by occupation, yet his chance may bee to play the Kings part. Martin, of what calling so euer he be, can play nothing but the knaues part.… Would it not bee a fine Tragedie, when Mardocheus shall play a Bishoppe in a Play, and Martin Hamman, and that he that seekes to pull downe those that are set in authoritie aboue him, should be hoysted vpon a tree aboue all others.48

Lambasted as a stage-player or "some lester about the Court," his railings against the church described as mere comical posing, Martin is then easily translated onto the stage and his religious concerns become contained as a part of his "act."49

Such containment, however, was soon perceived as subversive in itself. As Charles Nicholl observes, the anti-Martinist productions "were obviously coarse, sensational performances, full of violent antics." This theatrical entertainment was "to the greate offence of the better sorte," as John Harte, lord mayor of London wrote to Lord Burghley.50 In 1589 Edmund Tilney, as Master of the Revels, closed the theaters on account of the grotesque representations of Martin Marprelate. The Privy Council agreed with this move, and a letter was sent to the archbishop of Canterbury, the lord mayor of London, and the Master of the Revels requesting strict censorship of the theater. The Council wrote to the archbishop that "there hathe growne some inconvenience by common playes and enterludes in & about the cyttie of London, in [that] the players take upon [them] to handle in their plaies certen matters of Divinytie and State, unfitt to be suffered."51 The anti-puritan authorities thus quickly decided to contain the disruption they had orchestrated, much to the annoyance of Lyly, who complained that there were still anti-Martinist plays waiting to be performed.52

Even as the bishops were suspending the hired pens of their own anti-Martinists, they succeeded in silencing Martin Marprelate himself. While printing the long-awaited More work for the Cooper, the Mattinisi press—now operated by John Hodgkins—was finally ambushed by the earl of Derby's men, who seized the press, destroyed the tract, and tortured Hodgkins and his assistants. Penry and Throkmorton received news of the discovery and quickly produced a small, error-ridden octavo (most likely printed hastily by these two themselves, inexperienced as they were with the printing press). The Protestacyon (mid-October 1589) was the last of the Marprelate tracts; it expressed concern for the captive prisoners and contained arguments against imprisonment and torture which verge on a plea for freedom of conscience. Soon after the suppression of anti-Martinist productions and the capture of the Martinist press, the Marprelate controversy fizzled out. Writing for or against Martin had become a politically dangerous gesture. Martin's hot-blooded challenger, the cavalier Pasquill, reappeared briefly in the summer of 1590—but only to offer Pasquills Apologie, in which the tattered knight acrimoniously defends himself against the backlash towards the anti-Martinists, his overzealous attacks on puritanism having earned him accusations of being a Catholic.


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Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1831

One of the actors likely to have participated in the staging of Martin Marprelate was Will Kemp, who may also have been the first actor to play Falstaff.53 The connection is an interesting one and, I believe, more than just coincidence. The Marprelate controversy, which took place a mere six or seven years before the production of 1 Henry IV, was remembered long after the silencing of the tracts and sensational stage manifestations. Thomas Nashe, for instance, perhaps frustrated by the stifling of the stage and of the pamphlet war, continued to allude to the Marprelate controversy in such popular texts as Pierce Penilesse (1592).54 Indeed, Martin Merprelate appears to have remained a vivid cultural figure for the next fifty years.55 I believe that Shakespeare revived Martin, or at least relied on his legacy, when introducing Oldcastle/Falstaff to the stage; the presence of Will Kemp would have served as a vivid, visual reminder of the Marprelate connection. Shakespeare's creation was not entirely a "profoundly original … representation" or a "daring and provocative inspiration":56 if Oldcastle was widely identified as an early puritan, and stage puritans were widely expected to be comically grotesque figures, then the depiction of Oldcastle as the grotesque Falstaff was not only natural but even expected. Falstaff, I would argue, thus continues, in part, the burlesque representation of the puritan established in the staging of the Marprelate tracts.

Such a reading, of course, has not been the prevailing understanding of Falstaff, and it may at first seem counterintuitive. Late twentieth-century Americans have learned to identify puritans as dry, dour Casaubon-like figures, an image reinforced every time the word puritanical is used. Literary critics are not immune to this pervasive cultural image of the puritan, despite the revisionary work of historians such as Christopher Hill. Certainly scholars of the early modern English stage have much to lose by abandoning the image of the fun-hating, dust-breathing fogy; such a representation enables the complex politics governing the theater and its operation to be reduced to simplistic binary terms. We have been taught automatically to equate puritans with antitheatrical (or antientertainment) sentiments and playwrights with largely antipuritan inclinations. Although scholars are beginning to question these categories and stereotypes, this easy puritan/theater division continues to reinscribe and reinstitutionalize itself in contemporary criticism. In a fascinating footnote (the primary habitat of the puritan in many critical texts), Jonas Barish justifies his choice of the term puritan to describe the antitheatrical Stephen Gosson: "I use the convenient shorthand term 'Puritan' despite the fact that not all writers against the stage were Puritans. Gosson, for example, … 'was actually a vigorous opponent of Puritanism.'"57 The conceptual incongruity of an author who is simultaneously writing against the stage and against puritans is awkward and uncomfortable; the knowledge of Gosson's antipuritan writings deconstructs these very categories. This information is therefore textually repressed, becoming (quite literally) marginalized, hidden outside the parameters of the main text. We think of Gosson as allied with the puritans, and that is where he remains—whether he belongs there or not.

This same line of thinking prevents us from viewing Falstaff as a puritan. Falstaff's puritan origins have been consistently resisted, even by critics uncovering and foregrounding those origins. Why are scholars willing to make the radical revision in the character's name but not in his religion? Why read the Falstaff/ Oldcastle connection as merely typological satire on an elite Elizabethan family, glossing over the implications of Falstaff's origins in a prominent religious figure? The answer, I believe, is that Falstaff has become such an icon of bacchanalian revelry in our own culture that it is almost inconceivable to equate him with another cultural icon, The Puritan, legendary origin of all that is repressed and repressive in American society and history (an image perpetuated by authors from Nathaniel Hawthorne to William Carlos Williams). Puritans and the carnival grotesque are considered not only distant but also antithetical; this antithesis is fundamental to our way of conceptualizing the world.

As we have seen, however, our current popular image of the puritan was not the only one available to Shakespeare's Elizabethan audience. We have lost sight of the plurality of images used to represent puritans in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Certainly one predominant stereotype was the austere, rigid puritan, such as Malvolio or Tribulation Wholesome. But a competing representation (and I would argue a more pervasive one) was the grotesque puritan, such as Zeal-of-the-Land Busy or Plumporridge. I believe that it was this tradition of the grotesque puritan, so graphically realized in the staging of Martin Marprelate, to which Shakespeare turned when depicting the Lollard Oldcastle.

Literary critics have often struggled to find an adhesive label for Falstaff's character, a struggle that has resulted in "the endless litany absurdly patronizing Falstaff as Vice, Parasite, Fool, Braggart, Soldier, Corrupt Falstaff is, Glutton, Seducer of Youth, Cowardly Liar.58 Flastaff is, in fact, all of these and yet particular; he both deflects and absorbs such labels. With this awareness of Falstaff's slippery and multifaceted identity, I will venture to add "Falstaff as puritan" to the list. I am not attempting to reduce Falstaff's psychological and cultural complexity—Bloom's "Falstaffian sublimity"—to an easily graspable buzzword. Rather I am attempting, to the degree that it is possible to look back over a four-century divide, to uncover an important context that influenced the ways in which Elizabethans recognized and reacted to Falstaff as a social representation: I am endeavoring to reunite popular religious polemical literature and the stage, strands that have been falsely divorced through a history of critical prejudices and misconceptions.59 This reunification illuminates and explains aspects of Falstaff which have long remained in the shadows.

Modern editions of the Henriad (such as the Arden, the "New" Arden, the Riverside, the New Folger, the New Variorum, and the New Cambridge Shakespeare) all acknowledge Falstaff's theatrical origins in the character of Sir John Oldcastle from The Famous Victories of Henry V, and critics have often commented on Falstaff's "puritanical" characteristics and speech patterns. J. Dover Wilson noted that "traces of Lollardry may still be detected in Falstaff's frequent resort to Scriptural phraseology and his affectation of an uneasy conscience" and that the passages on repentance, "together with the habit of citing Scripture, may have their origin … in the puritan, psalm-singing, temper of Falstaff's prototype."60 Alfred Ainger, one of the earliest twentieth-century critics to discuss the Falstaff-Oldcastle connection, similarly observed, "What put it into Shakespeare's head to put this distinctly religious, not to say Scriptural phraseology into the mouth of Falstaff, but that the rough draft of the creation, as it came into his hands, was the decayed Puritan? For the Lollard of the fourteenth century was in this respect the Puritan of the sixteenth, that the one certain mark of his calling was this use of the language of Scripture, and that conventicle style which had been developed out of it."61 Falstaff does quote extensively from Scripture; of the fifty-four biblical references identified in 1 Henry IV, twenty-six "come from the mouth of Falstaff."62 He quotes indirectly from Genesis, Exodus, 2 Samuel, Psalms, Proverbs, Matthew, Mark, Luke, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, and 1 Thessalonians (citing from the nonconformist Geneva Bible rather than the officially sanctioned Bishops' Bible63).The parables of Dives and Lazarus and the Prodigal Son in particular, as Ainger notes, "seem to haunt him along his whole course."64

Editors and critics also note that Falstaff speaks in a "parody of liturgical language,"65 and that his lengthy speeches often smack of "the Scriptural style of the sanctimonious Puritan."66 This rhetorical style, employed extensively by early modern puritan preachers, is repetitive, pedagogic, and laced with abundant biblical exegesis, and it often incorporates a question-and-answer format. One example of Falstaff's use of this "precise manner of one of the Covenanting preachers"67 is his famous meditation on honor:

What is honour? A word. What is in that word honour? What is that honour? Air. A trim reckoning! Who hath it? He that died a-Wednesday. Doth he feel it? No. Doth he hear it? No. 'Tis insensible, then? Yea, to the dead. But will it not live with the living? No. Why? Detraction will not suffer it. Therefore I'll none of it. Honour is a mere scutcheon—and so ends my catechism.

(1HIV, 5.1.134-41)

In addition to biblical allusions and a rhetorical style typical of puritan preachers, Falstaff's speech is also rich in sixteenth-century puritan jargon. He compares himself to a "saint," puritan cant for one of God's elect, being corrupted by the "wicked" (1 HIV, 1.2.88-93), the puritan word for the damned.68 He speaks of his "vocation" (11. 101-2), another popular puritan term, and repeatedly mentions the "spirit," a cornerstone of personal puritan theology of the "light within" (as opposed to the conformist emphasis on ecclesiastical authority): "Care I for the limb, the thews, the stature, bulk, and big assemblance of a man?" he asks, "Give me the spirit" (2 HIV, 3.2.253-55, echoing 1 Samuel 16:7). In both Parts 1 and 2, Falstaff makes references to psalm-singing, a key element of the sixteenth-century puritan stereotype.69 He wishes he "were a weaver" so that he "could sing psalms" (1 HIV, 2.4.130)—weavers, who often sang at their work, being particularly notorious for their puritan psalmody—and later claims, "For my voice, I have lost it with halooing, and singing of anthems" (2 HIV, 1.2.188-89). As Ainger notes, "the Lollard and the Puritan were alike famous for their habit of chanting or singing," the root of Lollard supposedly being the low-German lollen, to sing, "just as the Puritan form of religion in much later times has impressed upon the vulgar mind as its most prominent association that of psalm-singing." (Ainger points to the puritan in The Winter's Tale "who sang Psalms to hornpipes.")70 Critics have also commented on Falstaff's reliance on salvation by faith alone and his death-bed reference to the "Whore of Babylon … the customary Puritan term for the Church of Rome."71

Modern literary scholars are not the only ones to note these puritan allusions; Falstaff's companions also appear to identify him—or mock him—as a man of religion. Hal, who prides himself on his chameleonlike ability to speak to various social groups (such as the drawers) in their own language, repeatedly uses biblical idiom when speaking to Falstaff: since Falstaff (Oldcastle) is a famous puritan, Hal attempts to speak to him in the Lollard's own (biblical) terms. The prince teases Falstaff, whom he calls an "elder" (a well-known term referring to the presbyterian form of church government) with "I see a good amendment of life in thee, from praying to purse-taking" (2 HIV, 2.4.256; 1 HIV, 1.2.99-100);72 later Hal angrily challenges Falstaffs Calvinist assumptions: "Is she of the wicked? Is thine hostess here of the wicked? Or is thy boy of the wicked? Or honest Bardolph, whose zeal burns in his nose, of the wicked?" (2HIV, 2.4.324-27). "Zeal," of course, is another puritan byword.73 The puritan rhetoric is neither incidental nor a moment of local humor but constitutes one of the many discursive registers through which Falstaff is constructed.


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Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 8693

Falstaff's puritan associations, then, are pervasive and unmistakable. Most critics noting Falstaffs tendency to speak in biblical idiom and puritan jargon have assumed that such speech is intended as active mockery of the puritans by Falstaff. They comment that Falstaff himself is a self-conscious satirist making "jibes at the Puritans,"74 that his part "involves Puritan pos-turing,"75 and that "his 'religiousness' is a joke at this stage of his life."76 Major editors have also held the opinion that Falstaff is repeatedly ridiculing puritans. Samuel Hemingway, who edited I Henry IV for the New Variorum Shakespeare, maintains that "in mimicry of the Puritans Falstaff here uses one of their canting expressions" (a reference to his use of "the wicked"), and that "Falstaff here repeats in ridicule another Puritan shibboleth" (a reference to his use of "vocation"), to cite just two examples.77 A. R. Humphreys, editor of the New Arden edition of the Henriad, also notes that Falstaff uses "frequent Puritan idiom," "mimics Puritan idiom," and devises "Puritan parody."78

But to an audience that identifies Falstaff with Oldcastle, such active, self-conscious puritan parody does not make much sense. The parody would have to be self-reflexive, with Sir John ridiculing his own religious inclinations—those same beliefs for which the historical Oldcastle was martyred. Considering Falstaff as a straightforward satirist, or as merely a Vice figure mocking "precisians," neglects the complex ramifications of his own religious associations and identity. Further, to explain Falstaffs religious language as merely a parody of puritan speech fails to take into account the legacy of the Marprelate tracts, especially the stage lampoons of Martin Marprelate and the precedent established for grotesque representations of the puritan. I believe an audience attuned to such representations, as well as to Oldcastle's own history, would have laughed not only with Falstaff but simultaneously at him: Falstaff does not simply satirize puritans but in many ways is himself a satiric representation of a famous Lollard martyr.79

On a superficial level the discrepancy between Falstaffs gluttonous lifestyle and the more restrained and abstemious conduct expected of a reformist religious leader becomes a basis for satire that runs throughout both parts of Henry IV. Although Bale has Oldcastle admitting "that in [his] frayle youthe [he] offended the (lorde) most greuouslye in pryde, wrathe, and glottonye, in couetousnesse and in lechere," in his wiser maturity he abandoned such pursuits;80 Shakespeare, however, retains this aspect of Oldcastle's personality even as he fills the Lollard's mouth with reformist jargon. This coexistence of debauchery and purity, a typical element of the hypocritical puritan figure, is highlighted in Falstaffs identification with "Ephesians … of the old church" (2HIV, 2.2.142). The "prime church of Ephesus," as Middleton's stage puritan Mistress Purge notes,81 was cited by puritans as a model for godly living, established according to the directives set out by St. Paul; the pre-Pauline Ephesians, on the other hand, were used as an example of those leading a wanton, ungodly lifestyle.82 As a reformed Christian, Falstaff should live (as he claims he is trying to do83) according to Paul's guidelines for purity and morality in the "new" church; however, Falstaff and his companions are still the heavy drinkers of the unregenerate "old" church. The duality of this image, with Ephesians functioning simultaneously as a model of Pauline morality and of lascivious living, illustrates both Falstaffs puritan leanings and his failure to maintain lofty standards; this conflict between the "old man" and the "new" he is struggling (or pretending) to be is a major source of the comic satire.

The discrepancy between the belligerent Lollard leader of historical accounts and the coward of the Henriad is just as obvious a source of satire. Before Falstaff can engage in puritan parody or function as a comic figure, he must be disenfranchised as a serious martial threat. In virtually all histories of Oldcastle and Henry V, Oldcastle is a powerful and often dangerous figure.84 As Holinshed and others report, he intended to lead an army consisting of thousands of commoners against Henry V; the attack was averted, But the threat posed to the throne by fifteenth-century Lollards was daunting. In Shakespeare's account Oldcastle's qualities as traitor and militant religious leader are dispersed among other characters in the plays; the historical Oldcastle is dismembered, his parts scattered, his subversive potential attached to other characters. It is the archbishop of York, not Oldcastle/Falstaff, who leads rebellion and "turns insurrection to religion" (2HIV, 1.1.201). Similarly, Oldcastle/Falstaff is not given the role of traitor. Holinshed and other chroniclers implicate Oldcastle in the Scroop-Grey-Cambridge plot, a domestic conspiracy that hinged on competing claims to the throne (rather than on personal greed and pay-offs from the French, as Shakespeare portrays it).85 In Henry V Shakespeare completely removes Oldcastle/ Falstaff from this treacherous triad; indeed, we might speculate that Falstaff's premature death is an effort to avoid the awkwardness of the historical alliance of Oldcastle with these traitors. Oldcastle's position as militant and treacherous religious leader is thus categorically emptied out, as the fallen knight Falstaff becomes a parody of the "Christen knyght" described by Bale, who "in all adve[n]terouse actes of wordlye manhode was … ever bolde, stronge, fortunate, doughtye, noble, & valeau[n]t." Falstaff does not lead armies against the king (indeed he is incapable of it) but rather directs troops that he himself (again turning to one of his favorite biblical parables) deems "slaves as ragged as Lazarus in the painted cloth, where the glutton's dogs licked his sores" (1HIV, 4.2.24-26).

To an audience familiar with Foxe, Holinshed, or The Famous Victories of Henry V Falstaff is easily recognizable as a satiric rendition of Oldcastle—but this is not to say that Falstaff does not also assume the role of satirist. Even as he is disempowered as a religious and military figure, Falstaff becomes a powerful center of carnival and articulates overtly subversive sentiments, freely criticizing—even mocking—king and prince. Through his jests, which respect neither rank nor hierarchy nor social order, Falstaff assumes a voice similar to that of Martin Marprelate. Phyllis Rackin has noted that "Falstaff's irrepressible, irreverent wit epitomizes the unruliness of present oral speech, which, unlike a written text, can never be fully subjugated to official censorship and authoritative control."86 While the Elizabethan political machinery kept a tight reign on the press, the Marprelate tracts presented an important and, for sixteenth-century English men and women, highly visible exception to this rule: the Marprelate tracts were unruly written texts which did evade censorship and authoritative control, at least for a time. Like the texts themselves, Martin's irreverent wit was irrepressible and unruly. Martin's manner of heckling the bishops and kicking away their pedestals enabled him to taunt them as equals; Martin explodes sanctioned hierarchies and pieties, and it is this leveling tendency that makes him so threatening—and so appealing.

Similarly, it is only through Falstaff that the audience comes to know the prince familiarly as "Hal." Falstaff's insults to Henry are just as dismissive of social hierarchy as are those of Martin to the bishops. Falstaff's speech itself reverberates with Martin's own grotesque, carnivalesque tone; indeed, the banter between Falstaff and Hal resounds with the taunting exchanges between Marprelate and his textual opponents such as Cuthbert Curryknave or Pasquill.87 Falstaff hails the prince as his "dog" (2HIV, 1.2.144-45), "the most comparative rascalliest sweet young prince" (IHIV, 1.2.78-79), and "a good shallow young fellow" who "would have made a good pantler, a would ha' chipped bread well" (2HIV, 2.4.234-35). He also hurls such colorful insults as "you starveling, you eel-skin, you dried neat's-tongue, you bull's-pizzle, you stock-fish" IHIV 2.4.240-41) and tells Hal to "hang thyself in thine own heir-apparent garters" IHIV, 2.2.42). Twice Falstaff even threatens treason: "By the Lord, I'll be a traitor then, when thou art king" IHIV, 1.2.141); "A king's son! If I do not beat thee out of thy kingdom with a dagger of lath, and drive all thy subjects afore thee like a flock of wild geese, I'll never wear hair on my face more" IHIV, 2.4.133-36). In addition to mocking the prince, Falstaff lacks all respect for the lord chief justice and undermines the very code of chivalry ("honour is a mere scutcheon") that was to become so central to the way nostalgic Elizabethans viewed Henry V; at Shrewsbury, Sir John discredits the notion of chivalric honor, and in Part 2 he boisterously sings '"When Arthur first in court'—Empty the Jordan.—'And was a worthy king'—How now, Mistress Doll?" (2HIV, 2.4.33-34), intermingling allusions to the paragon of chivalry with references to chamber pots and prostitutes. In Falstaff, as in Martin Marprelate, social and discursive orders are undermined and overturned.

Falstaff thus plays the role of satirist even as he is the butt of satire. In this dual and contradictory position, Falstaff reproduces a fundamental dynamic of the staging of Martinism. Such burlesque stagings provided Shakespeare not only with a performative model for representing puritans in terms of the grotesque, but also with a vivid example of the staging of satire and the use of the carnivalesque; Falstaff, like Martin, inhabits a pivotal, liminal position from which he is able to toy with the boundaries of orthodoxy and subversion. The duality as satirist and object of satire that lies at the heart of the Marprelate controversy is largely a function of the indeterminate social boundaries that Martin and his adversaries test and prod. In his irreverent attacks on the bishops, Martin challenged the boundaries defining ecclesiastical hierarchy and organization, thus questioning the episcopalian basis for church government. As Evelyn Tribble has recently noted, Martin's defiance of episcopal borders is mirrored in the tracts themselves, where Martin continually shifts his authorial position from the textual margins to the main body of the text. Tribble writes, "In her proclamation [against "Schismatical Bookes"] Elizabeth characterizes the pamphlets as attacking the bishops and the church as a whole 'in rayling sort and beyond the boundes of good humanitie.' 'Beyond the boundes': these words sum up the nature of the Marprelate threat. The pamphlets enact a grotesque breaking of the boundaries of the text and of conventional ecclesiastical discourse."88 The broken borders of the text were probably the least of the queen's immediate worries; not only did Martin advocate breaking textual and ecclesiastical boundaries, but the unbeatable, unstoppable production of the Marprelate tracts also revealed a very real breach in the authorities' ability to control discursive territories. The illegal pamphlets that continued to stream forth despite all attempts to stop them at their source became a graphic manifestation of permeable borders and failed efforts at containment.

In commissioning the vicious anti-Martinist attacks, the city magistrates and church authorities made a desperate attempt to demonstrate their control over these social and discursive boundaries. The violent, grotesque stage lampoons concocted by the anti-Martinists can be seen as an attempt to reclaim the system of social borders which Martin threatened; like a public execution, Martin's torture onstage is intended, in Foucault's term, to reactivate power.89 But in the case of Martin Marprelate, such punishment, although initiated by the city magistrates, quickly became a communal, popular act rather than a display organized by and for the central authority; in the staging of Martinism, the audience became not only spectators but participants. Even as the torture of Martin is turned over to the crowd, it loses its sting; onstage Marprelate is "drie beaten, & therby his bones broken, then whipt that made him winse," but at the same time he is playing a role in "a Maygame vpon the Stage."90

Within the anti-Martinist stage attacks, we can detect a shift from the exclusionary violence of the grotesque to the communal participation of the carnivalesque. In a lampoon known as "The Maygame of Martinism," Martin appears crossdressed as Maid Marian with a cloth covering his beard; still the object of laughter, Martin becomes a participant in communal festival—the focal point of the festivities and a source of carnival energy—not a scapegoat of mob violence. Far from marking his exclusion from the community, the staging of Martinism demonstrated Marprelate's ability to draw others into the terms of his own festive world. Crossing into his territory has perilous political consequences, however: in a debate where laughter becomes the ammunition for attacking political targets, to laugh with Martin even as he is supposed to be laughed at suggests—or could lead to—sympathies with his anti-episcopalian politics. In the roar of communal laughter, it becomes impossible to distinguish anti-Martinist from antiprelatical sentiment. Indeed, the same chuckle at Martin's stage antics could be simultaneously at and with Martin—or, what amounts to the same thing, at and with the city magistrates leading the attack.

Employing Martin's own carnivalesque terms, the antiMartinists do not reassert a social boundary so much as they playfully test rhetorical bounds. The line demarcating orthodoxy from heresy, which these authors were hired to enforce, becomes dangerously thin; similarly, the distinction between a mob exacting punishment for subversive activities and a crowd reveling in the possibility of that subversion begins to fade or even disappear. "The representation of disorder threatens to collapse into disorder itself," writes Tribble. The anti-Martinist authors themselves were aware of the boundaries they were dancing along and the dangers of slipping over them. Lyly "goes to some pains to avoid a potential collapse of satirizer and satirized"; Bacon, urging the suppression of the anti-Martinists, also "recognizes the tendency of the satirist and satirized to collapse."91

In one anti-Martinist pamphlet, where the anonymous author attempts to mock Marprelate and his readers by depicting the way in which his tracts were received, we can see the ambiguous, slippery terms of this satire. In this vignette one is asked to visualize a riotous tavern scene with an illegal, antiepiscopalian Marprelate tract (perhaps read out loud) providing the evening's entertainment: "[Martin], together with his ribauldry, had some wit (though knavish) and woulde make some foolish women, and pot companions to laugh, when sitting on their Alebenches, they would tipple, and read it, seruing them in steede of a blinde Minstrell, when they could get none, to fiddle them foorth a fitte of mirth."92 The scene is intended as ridicule, but it is nonetheless attractive; who does not enjoy being fiddled forth into a fit of mirth? The conspiratorial, underground nature of the scenario is also appealing, conjuring images of clandestine camaraderie. The seduction of this scene overwhelms its satiric purpose; even as it ridicules Martin, the passage inadvertently illustrates and effects his popular appeal, drawing the reader into Martin's circle. The anti-Martinist authors themselves seem unable to avoid a sense of community with Martin even as they lambaste his opinions and scoff at his prose style. Using Martin's satiric terms, they are unable to convert him entirely into an object of satire or to maintain the distance required for hostile satire. "Even as he attacks Martin," Tribble writes, "Lyly inadvertently implies a sort of fellowship with him; momentarily they become two ruffians drinking together."93 Despite his awareness of and resistance to the potential collapse of discursive (and, ultimately, political) boundaries, Lyly (like Nashe) cannot successfully maintain the distance between the satirist and the object of his satire.

The anti-Martinists thus played with, rather than policed, the boundaries they were assigned to defend. The tantalizing appeal of the Marprelate controversy is located along this quivering border between the authoritative and the subversive, the orthodox and the heretical. In this high-stakes game (that is, the secure and stable foundation of church—and hence state—government), the anti-Martinist authors toy with limits, daring themselves and each other to apply more pressure on social boundaries. To bend but not to break; this was the rule. The anti-Martinists sought to employ carnivalesque rhetoric while not fully participating in carnival. The play surrounding these limits created the excitement and the tension of the Marprelate controversy as Londoners followed the course of this pamphlet war with bated breath, the possibility of imminent explosion adding to the agitated, even fearful, pleasure of watching the limits grow transparently thin.

This same play at and with social boundaries infuses the Henriad with much of its dramatic energy. Henry IV, Part 1 in particular is largely driven by Hal's flirtation precisely with the border between authority and subversion, orthodoxy and heresy. Like the antiMartinists, Hal enters into the terms of carnival subversion, represented and embodied by Falstaff, while still maintaining his position of authority. The danger, however, is that the tension between these two positions might prove stronger than Hal's ability to control and define his own situation—that the boundary distinguishing the role of the prince from that of the reveler could break before Hal can orchestrate his glorious return to orthodoxy and filial duty. It is just possible—or at least we are invited to entertain the possibility—that "the base contagious clouds" Hal "permit[s] … to smother up his beauty from the world" could prove too dense, that his plan to imitate the sun could be thwarted by elements beyond his control, and that "the foul and ugly mists" could indeed strangle him (I HIV, 1.2.193-94 and 197-98). The force of carnival community might overcome his intention to step back into his role as king.

In Act 3, scene 2, of 1 Henry IV, King Henry explicitly warns his son of the dangers of slipping over this line, advocating instead a strict division between community and king and lamenting that Hal "hast lost [his] princely privilege / With vile participation" (11.86-87).

Describing Richard II's fall and his own rise to power, Henry prides himself on not becoming "stale and cheap to vulgar company"; he rather kept his "person fresh and new, … like a robe pontifical" (11. 41 and 55-56). By contrast Richard II, "the skipping King" (1. 60) in Henry's version of events,

Grew a companion to the common streets, Enfeoff'd himself to popularity, That, being daily swallow'd by men's eyes, … He was but as the cuckoo is in June, Heard, not regarded; seen, but with such eyes As, sick and blunted with community, Afford no extraordinary gaze, … Being with his presence glutted, gorg'd, and  full.                                     (3.2.68-84)

By "mingl[ing] his royalty with cap'ring fools" (as Henry says of Richard [1. 63]), Hal risks losing himself in the bowels of the common community, being absorbed so that the distinction between the crowd and the prince is no longer recognizable. Indeed, this breakdown of hierarchical division is precisely what Oldcastle threatened by leading a mob against the king, and in part what Marprelate advocated by seeking to pull down pontifical robes. The ever "glutted, gorg'd, and full" Falstaff thus seems almost to literalize this removal of social, hierarchical boundaries: Falstaff becomes the community which can, through jest, ingest its leaders. His rotund, expansive figure, though emblematic of carnivalesque festivity, potentially signifies absorption and loss of social distinction and hence of political authority.

The Henriad thus reenacts issues of discursive and political control presented by the Marprelate controversy. Within the plays themselves, Falstaff assumes a voice and role similar to that of Martin Marprelate, becoming a swelling carnival force that threatens to consume Hal's "princely privilege"; Falstaff, like Martin, challenges the hierarchies that constitute the very structure of church and state. The presence of the historical Oldcastle infuses Falstaff's festive carnival subversion with the potential of actual violence and upheaval. Like the anti-Martinists, Hal confronts Falstaff's festive social force by engaging in its own terms, reveling for a time in the playful contest of insults. But ultimately the prince, like the London magistrates, discovers that the boundary between authority and subversion is too fragile to be long toyed with in this way, and that hierarchies cannot be restored while the discursive play continues: Falstaff must first be banished and Martin's press must be seized, his printers tortured, and his authors killed.

Beyond the bounds of the stage, the Henriad also recreates the dynamic of the anti-Martinist theatrical lampoons, as Falstaff assumes the qualities of the satirized Martin Marprelate. In the anti-Martinist productions the audience is obviously intended to be ridiculing and laughing at the abused Martin; but, as in the anti-Martinist tracts themselves, the legacy of Martin's popular appeal overwhelms the pressures of satire, and the audience finds itself in the position of laughing with the target of the attack. Similarly, the translation of the martial religious hero Oldcastle into the comic buffoon Falstaff seems to require mocking laughter; but even as a butt of satire, Falstaff exudes such inviting carnival energy that the audience engages with him: he is, in his own words, "not only witty in [himself], but the cause that wit is in other men" (2HIV, 1.2.8-9). For a short time the audience becomes Falstaff's "pot companions," and they too are "fiddled forth" into mirth—subversive laughter often at the king's expense. It is this wit that draws the spectators into "vile participation" with a figure who led an army against the king. From the position of the satirized, both Falstaff and Martin Marprelate entice the audience to join their carnival revelries. The spectators simultaneously laugh at and with subversive forces, simultaneously disapproving and participating; this is the play of the play.


1 John Bale, Brefe Chronycle concernynge the Examinacyon and death of the blessed martyr of Christ syr Johan Oldecastell the lorde Cobham (Antwerp, 1544), fol. 4V. All quotations of Bale follow this edition. Bale expands on William Tyndale's account of Oldcastle, The examination of master William Thorpe preste accused of heresye. The examination of Syr J. Oldcastell (Antwerp, 1530).

2 Bale, fols. 9r, 13r, 49r.

3 3r, 52r, 53r.

4 The most thorough catalogue of sixteenth-century references to Oldcastle can be found in Alice-Lyle Scoufos, Shakespeare's Typological Satire: A Study of the Falstaff-Oldcastle Problem (Athens: Ohio UP, 1979). In John Foxe's Acts and Monuments (1563), which included Oldcastle's biography (largely lifted from Bale) and a woodcut graphically representing his "horrible and cruell martirdome," Foxe recounts Oldcastle's trial and describes the Lollard insurrection of 1413, led in part by Oldcastle, as "an evangelical meeting of the gospellers." This benign version of his participation in the uprising drew sharp attacks from those who adhered to the image of Oldcastle as heretic and traitor, the representation popular through the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. In response to such criticism, Foxe added a thirty-page "Defense of Lord Cobham" in his second edition (1570), further evidence of Oldcastle's popularity, as well as an indication of his controversial position. While Foxe acknowledges that Oldcastle was deemed a heretic for his Wyclifite views, he staunchly denies that the nobleman was a traitor or anything but a loyal subject of Henry V (Scoufos, 60-62, esp. 61).

5 John Stowe's Annales of England (1592) described Oldcastle as a "strong … [and] meetely good man of war, but … a most perverse enimie to the state of the church at that time" (Scoufos, 65). Stowe's depiction follows the fifteenth-century tradition of portraying Oldcastle as an enemy to church and state; this image had predominated until Tyndale's pamphlet (see note 1). Responding to Tyndale, Sir Thomas More "cites the burning of Oldcastle as an English example of the wise use of fire to control destructive forces" (Scoufos, 56-67, esp. 56).

6 Stephen Brachlow cites several examples of prominent puritans who claimed a genealogy from the Lollards in The Communion of Saints: Radical Puritan and Separatist Ecclesiology 1570-1625 (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1988); among these were Walter Travers (81), Foxe (90), William Ames (91), and Robert Parker (91). In an attempt to link the reform movement with the chronology set out in Revelation, "Wyclif and the early reformers" were sometimes "identified with" the three angels in Revelation 14 (89n). See also

7 Scoufos provides convincing and extensive evidence that Shakespeare's contemporaries, as well as his eighteenth-century readers, recognized Falstaff as an alias for Oldcastle; see especially Chapter 2 of Shakespeare's Typological Satire. See also

8 Critics have almost universally claimed that the namechange was the direct result of protests by William Brooke, Lord Cobham; while Brooke does seem to have complained about 1 Henry IV to Edmund Tilney, we have only circumstantial, secondhand evidence of his opposition. For a persuasive argument that the protesting family member was the tenth Lord Cobham, Sir William Brooke, Lord Chamberlain from 1596-97 (thus dating the play in late 1596), see Robert J. Fehrenbach, "When Lord Cobham and Edmund Tilney 'were art odds': Oldcastle, Falstaff, and the Date of 1 Henry IV," Shakespeare Studies 18 (1986): 87-101.

Thomas Pendleton provides what seems to me a more thorough explanation for the switch, noting that Shakespeare, a man of seemingly conservative religious incliation, "must have been surprised to find that his proto-Puritan figure of fun was for much of his audience a proto-Protestant martyr.… The change from 'Oldcastle' to 'Falstaff seems to have been motivated not just by Sir William Brooke's displeasure, but as much—and in the greatest likelihood, much more—by the displeasure of a significant part of Shakespeare's audience at his treatment of a hero of their religion" ('"This is not the man' : On Calling Falstaff Falstaff," Analytical & Enumerative Bibliography, n.s. 4 [1990]: 59-71, esp. 68-69). The Epilogue to 2 Henry IV thus becomes more comprehensible: "a public apology implies that at least a considerable part of the public had been offended" (68).

9 Taylor lists "Thomas Middleton (1604), Nathan Field (c. 1611), the anonymous author of Wandering-Jew, Telling Fortunes to Englishmen (c. 1628), George Daniel (1647), Thomas Randolph (1651), and Thomas Fuller (1655, 1662)" as those noting the original identity of "Oldcastle" (85-86). For evidence of court performances of 1 Henry IV using the name of "Oldcastle," see Taylor, 90-91.

10A Critical Edition of I Sir John Oldcastle, ed. Jonathan Rittenhouse, The Renaissance Imagination, Stephen Orgel, ed., vol. 9 (New York: Garland, 1984), 104. Robert Wilson and Richard Hathaway also collaborated with Munday and Drayton. Commissioned by Henslowe in the wake of the Henriad, this play testifies to the popular demand for more representations of Oldcastle and to the desire of at least part of the public to see him restored as a Protestant martyr and hero. John Weever's hagiographic poem The Mirror of Martyrs, or The life and death of that thrice valiant Capitaine, and most godly Martyre Sir Iohn Oldcastle knight Lord Cobham (London, 1601) also illustrates this urge to recover the Lollard as a pious knight. See also

11 Gary Taylor, Stanley Wells, John Jowett, and William Montgomery changed the name of "Falstaff" back to "Oldcastle" in William Shakespeare: The Complete Works (Oxford: Clarendon, 1986), 509. Jonathan Goldberg, arguing against the name-change, contends that "these restorations, made in the name of 'the integrity of the individual work of art' and, congruously, 'the integrity of the individual'—call him Oldcastle, or Shakespeare—relentlessly reduce multiplicity to singularity. This text of 1 Henry IV is the one and only text, unrevised. The character's name is likewise fixed, referring to the real. But in these claims, Shakespeare's hand is being held firmly in the censor's grip, for the exterior has violated the very integrity Taylor wishes to secure; claiming to free Shakespeare—and to allow him artistic autonomy—Taylor ties him to a singular historical referent, and a singular meaning. Through the proper name, all sorts of propriety are secured in the transcendental name of the logos" ("The Commodity of Names: 'Falstaff and 'Oldcastle' in 1 Henry IV in Reconfiguring the Renaissance: Essays in Critical Materialism, Jonathan Crew, ed. [Cranbury, NJ: AUP, 1992], 76-88, esp. 83). David Scott Kastan, noting that "all the authoritative texts print 'Falstaff and none prints 'Oldcastle,'" writes: "To disregard this fact is to idealize the activity of authorship, removing it from the social and material mediations that permit intentions to be realized in print and performance. It is to remove the text from its own complicating historicity. The restoration of 'Oldcastle' enacts a fantasy of unmediated authorship paradoxically mediated by the Oxford edition itself ('"Killed With Hard Opinions': Oldcastle, Falstaff, and the Reformed Text of 1 Heny IV in Textual Formations and Reformations, Thomas L. Berger and Laurie McGuire, eds., forthcoming). Thomas Pendleton further notes the flaws in the assumption that only the name was changed, without corresponding changes in the text (59-71). David Bevington, first to disagree with Taylor and Wells's decision, keeps the name of "Falstaff" in the single volume Henry IV, Part I he edited for Oxford (The Oxford Shakespeare [Oxford: Clarendon, 1987]). For a pointed summation of this editorial "battle" (Bevington's term, v), see the review of Bevington's volume by John W. Velz in Shakespeare Quarterly 43 (1992): 107-9.

12 Taylor, 85. In "The Fortunes of Oldcastle," Taylor defends his decision to reinstate "Oldcastle" as the name of Hal's companion. Taylor argues that "in the mouth of a fictional character called Falstaff, the words lose their historicity and ambiguity. To some extent, this is what happens to the whole character. The name 'Falstaff fictionalizes, depoliticizes, secularizes, and in the process trivializes the play's most memorable character. It robs the play of that tension created by the distance between two available interpretations of one of its central figures" (95). While I appreciate the impulse to rescue Shakespeare from the evils of sixteenth-century court politics, I must also disagree with Taylor's editorial decision. To annihilate the effects of Shakespeare's contemporary censors is to rewrite history in a disturbingly Orwellian fashion and to deny the text's sociopolitical setting. In addition, if, as Taylor effectively argues, Elizabethan and Jacobean audiences were highly aware of Falstaff's "real" identity as Oldcastle, then part of the pleasure of this theatrical experience would have been the knowledge that one could read the clandestine identity hidden behind the name, much like the intrigue of a roman è clef. Since "Falstaff is the name that was presented to the vast majority of viewers, changing his name would be the equivalent of demystifying allegory; The Faerie Queene, for example, would not be nearly as titillating if the veil of allegorical names were stripped away, and Britannia, Britomart, and the Faerie Queen herself were all merely "Queen Elizabeth." In short, rather than depoliticizing the play or robbing it of tension, presence of the name "Falstaff combined with the knowledge of the character's "true" identity heightens awareness of the political circumstances of the play.

13 Fehrenbach, 92. Fehrenbach agrees with S. Schoenbaum (Shakespeare: A Documentary Life [Oxford: Clarendon, 1975], 144) that the name Oldcastle was simply a mistake.

14 See Mark Dominik, A Shakespearean Anomaly: Shakespeare's Hand in "Sir John Oldcastle " (Beaverton, OR: Alioth Press, 1991) and E.A.J. Honigmann, "Sir John Oldcastle: Shakespeare's martyr," in "Fanned and Winnowed Opinions ": Shakespearean Essays presented to Harold Jenkins, John W. Mahon and Thomas A. Pendleton, eds. (London and New York: Methuen, 1987), 118-32. Scoufos repeatedly attributes Shakespeare's transformation of the historical Oldcastle to a desire to satirize the Cobham family: "The poet was concerned with ridiculing the new lord chamberlain through an established dramatic character.… [Shakespeare] developed within the chronicle material context a broad comic plot in which the Falstaff-Oldcastle character could be manipulated to reflect not only the image of the ancestral Lollard martyr but certain aspects of the life of the contemporary Lord Cobham, Sir William Brooke" (107). After William's death in March 1597, we find Master Ford assuming the alias of Brook in The Merry Wives of Windsor, seemingly an allusion to the new Lord Cobham, Henry Brooke (and here again protests caused the name to be changed to "Broom"). Scoufos goes so far as to state that "The Merry Wives of Windsor is a play about the Cobhams" (191), and speculates that Queen Elizabeth's famous request to see Falstaff in love was in direct response to Henry Brooke's amorous (mis)adventures (200-204). The Brooke satire was apparently included for the entertainment of Sir George Carey, patron of the Chamberlain's Men and Henry Brooke's unsuccessful rival for government positions. The Carey-Brooke friction continued to provide satiric fodder for playwrights; Nashe's Lenten Stuffe, the lost Isle of Dogs, and Jonson's Every Man in his Humour all take jabs at the Brooke family. See Charles Nicholl, A Cup of News: The life of Thomas Nashe (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1984), 249-55. This satiric naming is superficial, however, in comparison to Oldcastle's thorough conversion into the character of the Henriad's Falstaff. A topical allusion to a relatively minor Elizabethan courtier may be read as personal satire; the transformation of a prominent historical figure, one variously claimed as a cultural icon, transcends the level of personal, local attack.

15 Scoufos, 35-36.

16 Wilson, The Fortunes of Falstaff (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge UP, 1944), esp. Chapter 2.

17 Bloom, Ruin the Sacred Truths: Poetry and Belief from the Bible to the Present (Cambridge, MA, and London: Harvard UP, 1989), 84.

18 P. A. Scholes, The Puritans and Music, 113-16, cited in Patrick Collinson, The Elizabethan Puritan Movement (Berkeley: U of California P, 1967), 370. One of the anti-Marprelate tracts includes the line: "Who trusts a broken staffe, we see, doe fall ere they be ware" ([Sir John Davies], Sir Martin Mar-People, his Coller of Esses [London, 1590], sig. A4V).

19 Nicholl, 64.

20 William Pierce, An Historical Introduction to the Marprelate Tracts (London: Archibald Constable, 1908), 152. See also

21 This and all quotations of the Marprelate tracts come from the most recent modern reprint, The Marprelate Tracts 1588, 1589, ed. William Pierce (London: James Clarke & Co., 1911), here, 17.

22Marprelate Tracts, 239.

23Marprelate Tracts, 28, 75, and 84-85.

24Marprelate Tracts, 25 and 86.

25 Hill, The Collected Essays of Christopher Hill: Volume One, Writing and Revolution in 17th Century England (Amherst: The U of Massachusetts P, 1985), 76.

26Marprelate Tracts, 90 and 91 (emphasis mine).

27 In Bartholomew Fair, Busy exclaims, "I wil remoue Dagon there, I say, that Idoll, that heathenish Idoli, that remaines (as I may say) a bearne, a very bearne, not a bearne of the Sunne, nor a bearne of the Moone, nor a bearne of a ballance, neither a house-beame, nor a Weauer's bearne, but a bearne in the eye, in the eye of the brethren … " (Ben Jonson, ed. C. H. Herford and Percy and Evelyn Simpson, vol. 6 [Oxford: Clarendon, 1938], 5.5.4-9). Falstaff also employs this comic, repetitious manner of preaching in 1 Henry IV: "an old lord of the Council rated me the other day in the street about you, sir, but I marked him not, and yet he talked very wisely, but I regarded him not, and yet he talked wisely, and in the street too" (1.2.81-85). This and all subsequent references to the Henriad are from the New Arden edition, edited by A. R. Humphreys (London: Routledge, 1960).

28 Hill, 75.

29 The promised Epitome of John Bridges's "right worshipful volume written against the Puritans" (end of November 1588) was followed in turn by the broadside Minerali and metaphysicall schoolpoints (mid-March 1589), Hay any worke for Cooper (March 1589), Martin Jr.'s Theses Martinianae (22 July 1589), and Martin Sr.'s The just censure and reproofe (29 July 1589).

30 Hill, 77.

31Marprelate Tracts, 200.

32Marprelate Tracts, 357n and 359. Martin Sr. has Archbishop Whitgift give orders to search London for Martinist pamphlets: "And mark if any Puritan receiveth anything. Open his pack, that you may be sure he hath no Martins sent him. We will direct our warrants so that you may search all packs at your discretion. We will take order also that the Court may be watched, who dispense or read these Libels there; and in faith I think they do my lord of Essex great wrong, that say he favours Martin" (356-57).

33 Neil Rhodes, Elizabethan Grotesque (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980), 4.

34 Nicholl, 74-75. In Bacon's Advertisement touching the Controversies of the Church of England (late 1589) Bacon takes on the role of peacemaker, and Richard Harvey takes on the persona of Plaine Percevall the Peace-maker in Plaine Percevall (late 1589). Gabriel Harvey's Advertisement for Papp-hatchett and Martin Marprelate (November 1589) is in part a response to personal attacks from Lyly. Richard Harvey's "abuse of the anti-Martinists in Plaine Percevall, and of Nashe in The Lamb of God [1590], was the spark which ignited the Nashe-Harvey quarrel" (Nicholl, 75). Of the popular appeal of this dispute, Neil Rhodes writes: "In the middle years of the decade the literary battle between Nashe and Harvey provided spectacular entertainment of a different kind. It was a re-run of the Marprelate controversy conducted at a more sophisticated stylistic level" (92). C. L. Barber discusses the ways in which those entering the Marprelate fray styled themselves as joining Martin's "May game" in Shakespeare 's Festive Comedy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1959), 55.

35 See Leland H. Carlson, Martin Marprelate, Gentleman: Master Job Throkmorton Laid Open In His Colors (San Marino, CA: Huntington, 1981). J. Dover Wilson also advanced his own theory of authorship for the Marprelate tracts, suggesting that Martin was Sir Roger Williams; Wilson goes on to claim that Shakespeare's character of Fluellen was modelled after Williams, an assertion that seems to me rather dubious. See Wilson, Martin Marprelate and Shakespeare's Fluellen (London: Alexander Moring, 1912).

36Marprelate Tracts, 71, 78, 248, 262, and 279.

37 Nashe's anti-Martinist tract An Almond for a Parrai is found in The Works of Thomas Nashe, ed. Ronald B. McKerrow, 5 vols. (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1958), here, 3:342 and 374. Other anti-Martinist tracts possibly by Nashe, such as A Countercujfe given to Martin Junior (1589), The Return of Pasquill (1589), and The First Part of Pasquills Apologie (1590), are in Volume 1. McKerrow lists the Almond under "Doubtful Works," but Nicholl describes this text as "the one anti-Martinist pamphlet accepted as entirely his," while establishing a collaborative relationship with Robert Greene for the authorship of the Pasquill tracts—with Nashe as the "news-hound" and Greene as the author (71-73, esp. 72).

38 [Thomas Nashe], Martins Months minde, that is, A certaine report, and true description of the Death, and Funeralls, of olde Martin Marre-prelate (London, 1589), sig. Alr.

39 "Contrary to modern canons, the grotesque body is not separated from the rest of the world. It is not a closed, completed unit; it is unfinished, outgrows itself, transgresses its own limits. The stress is laid on those parts of the body that are open to the outside world, that is, the parts through which the world enters the body or emerges from it, or through which the body itself goes out to meet the world. This means that the emphasis is on the apertures or the convexities, or on various ramifications and offshoots: the open mouth, the genital organs, the breasts, the phallus, the potbelly, the nose. The body discloses its essence as a principle of growth which exceeds its own limits only in copulation, pregnancy, childbirth, the throes of death, eating, drinking, or defecation. This is the ever unfinished, ever creating body, the link in the chain of genetic development, or more correctly speaking, two links shown at the point where they enter into each other" (Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World, trans. Helene Iswolsky [Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1984], 26).

40Works of Thomas Nashe, 3:355.

41Works of Thomas Nashe, 1:59.

42 [Lyly], Pappe with an hatchet, Puritan Discipline Tracts (London, 1844), 37.

43 Mary Grace Muse Adkins argues that A Knack to Know a Knave is a surviving anti-Martinist play; but while this play probably emanates from the Marprelate controversy, it is both too late (1592) and too formally constructed to be one of the grotesque anti-puritan interludes referred to in the tracts themselves ("The Genesis of Dramatic Satire Against the Puritan, as Illustrated in A Knack to Know a Knave," Review of English Studies 22 [1946]: 81-95, esp. 81-85).

44 Pierce, 222. Rhodes notes that an especially violent anti-Martinist play "was probably acted by Paul's Boys in 1589 and the company closed as a result. The public theatres were also engaged in anti-Marprelate satire, but they managed to escape official sanctions.… the most likely explanation of the closure of Paul's Boys in 1590 is that it was considered most unfitting for children to be mixed up in a religious controversy" (66 -67).

45 See Pappe with an hatchet, 50.

46Works of Thomas Nashe, 1:59 and 92; Nicholl, 68.

47Marprelate Tracts, 330.

48Pappe with an hatchet, 32.

49Pappe with an hatchet, 12. We find another intriguing reference to Martin's theatricality in Pasquill's (Nashe's) Countercuffe to Martin Junior, in which the speaker affirms: "Pasquills experience in thys generation teacheth him, that many of your Bowlsterers may be compared to Bookes that are gilded & trimlie couered, they sette a faire face of Religion vppon your cause, but when they are opened, they are full of Tragedies, eyther Thyestes eating vppe the flesh of his owne Children, or cursed Oedipus in bed with his owne Mother" (Works of Thomas Nashe,) 1:63-64).

50 Nicholl, 68. The letter is quoted in full in the notes to Pappe with an hatchet, 48.

51 The letter to the archbishop is quoted in full in the notes to Pappe with an hatchet, 49.

52 "Would those Comedies might be allowed to be plaid that are pend, and then I am sure he would be decyphered, and so perhaps discouraged" (Pappe with an hatchet, 32).

53 Nicholl writes: "Will Kemp may also have contributed his famous comic talents: a later Martinist tract mentions a 'Kemp' among the 'haggling and profane' detractors of Martin, and Nashe dedicated his own effort, An Almond for a Parrai, to Kemp. Both [John] Lanham and Kemp were old members of Leicester's troupe, which had dispersed on the death of its patron in 1588 and joined ranks with Lord Strange's Men. The latter company was specifically mentioned by Lord Mayor Hart in November 1589, when the authorities were moving to suppress the unseemly plays they had originally encouraged. It seems probable that Strange's Men, including Kemp and Lanham, were responsible for some of these gruesome travesties of Martin" (68). Martin Holmes argues persuasively for Kemp's role as Falstaff in Shakespeare and His Players (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1972), 47-50, and Wilson writes: "We know very little about the casting of Shakespeare's plays, but William Kempe was the comic man of the Lord Chamberlain's men, one of the principal sharers, and very popular with the London public; so that it seems natural to assume that the character of Falstaff was written for and, theatrically speaking, created by him. The Quarto of Part II even has a stage-direction, 'Enter Will' early in the Doll scene (2.4) which is paralleled by 'Enter Will Kemp' in the Second Quarto of Romeo and Juliet and is best explained, I think, as a Falstaff entry for the same player" (124). Thomas Whitfield Baldwin suggested that Thomas Pope had played the part, based on the assumption that this actor did high-comedy parts, while Kemp took the low (The Organization and Personnel of the Shakespearean Company [Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1927], 231-32).

54 See Nicholl's discussion of the "Tale of the Beare and the Foxe" from Pierce Penilesse, which he convincingly reads as antipuritan allegory with pervasive references to the suppressed Marprelate controversy (112-15).

55 Hill, 78.

56 Bloom, 86. Taylor states that Shakespeare's "decision to conflate the historical Oldcastle with the theatrical Vice" (Wilson's reading) was a radical innovation (96).

57 Jonas Barish, The Antitheatrical Prejudice (Berkeley and Los Angeles: U of California P, 1981), 82n. Barish, noting Christopher Hill's warning against the indeterminacy of the term puritan, states that he is using this term to indicate "a complex of attitudes best represented by those strictly designated as Puritans" (82n)—yet Gosson, whom Barish himself acknowledges is anything but "strictly designated" as a puritan, is soon firmly located in the puritan camp based on his antitheatrical tract, Plays Confuted in Five Actions (1582), which was possibly commissioned "by the London authorities" (89-90).

58 Bloom, 79.

59 Neil Rhodes is one critic who does examine such pamphlet literature, locating the origins of the English grotesque in the Marprelate controversy and exploring its subsequent evolution, largely in the writings of Thomas Nashe. He positions Henry IV in the context of the Marprelate tracts and discusses the influence of Nashe on Shakespeare's earlier writing but does not claim the same direct connection for Falstaff, perhaps because he seems unaware of Falstaff's Lollard origins (89-99).

60 Wilson, Fortunes, 16 and 33.

61 Ainger, Lectures and Essays (London: Macmillan, 1905), 1:141-42. Wilson quotes this essay as his primary reference for comments on Falstaff's puritanism (Fortunes, 16 and 21).

62 Naseeb Shaheen, Biblical References in Shakespeare's History Plays (Netwark: U of Delaware P, 1989), 137.

63 The New Arden edition notes that Falstaff's advice, "Watch tonight, pray tomorrow" IHIV, 2.A.273), not only echoes Matthew 26:41 but perhaps refers to the page heading of "Watch & Pray" that appears above Luke 22 in the Geneva Bible. Later Falstaff refers to "tattered prodigals lately come from swine-keeping, from eating draff and husks" IHIV, 4.2.34-36). According to the New Arden, "Shakespeare recollects the Geneva Bible's 'huskes' (Luke, xv. 16) rather than the Bishops' or Great Bible's 'coddes'" (130n).

64 Ainger, 142.

65 S. L. Bethell, "The Comic Element in Shakespeare's Histories," Anglia 71 (1952): 82-101, esp. 99.

66Henry The Fourth Part 1, ed. Samuel Burnett Hemingway, New Variorum Shakespeare (Philadelphia and London: J. B. Lippincott, 1936), cited in Humphreys, ed., 15n.

67 Ainger, 142.

68 Humphreys, ed., 84n.

69 Puritans set psalms to music in order to make them easier to memorize, part of their educational agenda to encourage learned Christians (Collinson, 356-71). Yet another example of Falstaff's puritan speech, if a less obvious one, is a reference to "Turk Gregory" IHIV, 5.3.46), "whom Protestant writers cited as a by-word for violence," referred to in both Foxe's Acts and Monuments and Martin Marprelate's The Epistle (Humphreys, ed., 153n).

70 Ainger, 145. Giorgio Melchiori, the editor of The Second Part of King Henry IV for The New Cambridge Shakespeare (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1989) also notes that "Falstaff's hymn-singing is … possibly a survival of the caricature of the original Oldcastle, a Lollard, equated by the Elizabethans with the Puritans" (76n).

71 H. Mutschmann and K. Wentersdorf, Shakespeare and Catholicism (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1952), 347; see pages 345-49 for a discussion of Falstaff's status as a puritan. Bethell also discusses Falstaff's "Puritan" dialogue (94 and 98-99).

72 "Amendment of life" echoes Luke 15:7, Matthew 3:8, and Acts 26:20 (Humphreys, ed., 16n).

73 Humphreys, ed., 84n.

74 Christopher Baker, "The Christian Context of Fal-staff's 'Finer End,'" Explorations in Renaissance Culture 12 (1986): 68-87, esp. 72 and 76.

75 Goldberg, 77.

76 Honigmann, 127.

77 Hemingway, ed., 36, 37, and 38n.

78 The notes to Humphreys's edition provide fascinating examples of the editorial tunnel vision that results from the denial of Falstaff's associations with puritanism and his origins in a famous reformist religious leader. One instance of editorial inconsistency is the definition given for the terms "not-pated" and "knottypated." In a moment of anger, Hal calls Falstaff "thou knotty-pated fool" (IHIV, 2.4.222). The Arden footnote for this line glosses "knotty-pated" as "block-headed" (68n). The term "not-pated," however, which the Prince hurls at the unfortunate Francis in a similar tirade (IHIV, 2.4.69), is defined as a reference to short hair, "common among the lower and middle classes, and the Puritans got the nickname of round-heads because they for the most part belonged to these ranks" (59-60n). Similarly, "smooth-pates" (2HIV, 1.2.38) is defined as "city (Puritan) tradesmen who, despising the long locks of fashion, cropped their hair short; known later as Roundheads" (21n). Hal could also be using the term "knotty-headed" with puritan connotations when he speaks to Falstaff.

79 In Part 2 Falstaff is associated with "Ephesians … of the old church" (2.2.142), a line to which I will return, which the New Arden glosses as follows: "The allusion is perhaps to the unregenerate Ephesians, with the sensual faults St Paul warns them against (particularly indulgence in wine: Ephes., v. 18) before they 'put off the old man' and put on the new.… The Page hardly seems to allude (unless ironically, and the irony would be lost on the stage) to 'the prime church of the Ephesians', whose conditions St Paul laid down, and which was the Puritan court of appeal for purity of life" (57n). This gloss, with its blanket refusal to consider the possibility of puritan overtones ("the Page hardly seems to allude"), preempts the valid possibility of irony even as it provides an ironic reading of the (otherwise gratuitous) line. In Falstaff's case, the irony of the phrase—an irony that would have been glaringly obvious to an audience aware of both Falstaff's Lollard origins and his bacchanalian behavior onstage—stems from the coexistence of these diametrically opposed social models in the person of Falstaff.

Falstaff is, indeed, a conglomeration of satires: the fallen Knight of the Garter, a miles gloriosus, the Lords Cobham. Falstaff also has associations with Sir John Fastolfe, who is called "Falstaff in 1 Henry VI and who was considered a religious figure. Mutschmann and Wentersdorf write: "The fact that the name chosen by Shakespeare as a substitute for Oldcastle, namely Falstaff, was that of another highly esteemed Protestant aroused the anger of the Puritans still more.… The historical Sir John Fastolfe (13787-1459) was one of the leaders of the English forces fighting in France during the reign of King Henry VI. He allegedly behaved 'with much cowardice' on one occasion, and in 1 Henry VI (iii.2; iv.I), Shakespeare shows Fastolfe deserting the hero Talbot on the field of battle. The Puritans rejected this as a historical error if not a slander, because they regarded him as a Lollard sympathizer" (348).

80 Bale, fol. 26r-v.

81 Mistress Purge exclaims: "this playing is not lawful, for I cannot find that either plays or players were allowed in the prime church of Ephesus by the elders" (1.3.309-11). Thomas Middleton, The Family of Love, ed. Simon Shepherd (Nottingham, UK: Nottingham Drama Texts, 1979).

82 "I am neither heretic nor Puritan, but of the old church. I'll swear, drink ale, kiss a wench, go to mass, eat fish all Lent, and fast Fridays with cakes and wine, fruit and spicery, shrive me of my old sins afore Easter, and begin new afore Whitsuntide" (I Sir John Oldcastle, xiii. 129-33).

83 While Wilson (Fortunes, 17-20) argues convincingly for Falstaff's debt to characters from earlier morality plays (such as Riot in Youth), we must also acknowledge that Falstaff himself continually resists such a role, implying that he is the "saint" being corrupted by the "wicked," that he has been "bewitched with the rogue's company" (1HIV, 2.2.17), and that "company, villainous company, hath been the spoil of [him]" (3.3.9-10). Falstaff laments privately that he now lives "out of all order, out of all compass" (11. 18-19)—more the sentiments of a fallen puritan than of a thriving Vice.

84 The bland Oldcastle in The Famous Victories of Henry the fifth: Containing the Honourable Baiteli of Agin-court (London, 1598) is a rare exception. The neutrality of this figure perhaps indicates another playwright's uneasiness with Oldcastle and the difficulties of presenting him on the stage in Elizabethan England.

85The Oldcastle Controversy, Peter Corbin and Douglas Sedge, eds. (Manchester and New York: Manchester UP, 1991), 220. In an instance of historical irony, the Jacobean bearers of the Cobham title would once again become involved in treacherous plots to overthrow the king, but this time the schemes involved Catholic sympathizers. Despite William Brooke's loyal service and prestige during the reign of Elizabeth, two of his sons were traitors. Henry Brooke, Lord Cobham, was implicated in the Main Plot to replace James I with Arabella Stuart and (together with Sir Walter Ralegh, whom Brooke accused of being a co-conspirator) was condemned to life imprisonment in the Tower. Henry's younger brother George was less fortunate, being accused of involvement in the Bye Plot and decapitated in 1603 (Dictionary of National Biography, s.v. "Brooke, Henry, 1619 ").

86 Rackin, Stages of History: Shakespeare's English Chronicles (Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1990), 238.

87 The resonance of these exchanges could result from what some see as the direct influence of Thomas Nashe. Rhodes observes: "In the absence of any considerable drama, bar that of Shakespeare, in the middle years of the decade the literary battle between Nashe and Harvey provided spectacular entertainment of a different kind. It was a re-run of the Marprelate controversy conducted at a more sophistocated level.… In these circumstances it is highly improbable that Shakespeare was unaware of what Nashe was doing, and in writing 1 Henry IV in the winter of 1596-97, with its rhapso-dies of grotesque abuse and its splendid evocation of low life in the city, he seems to be deliberately following that lead. After all, his instincts as a writer of comedy before this time were throughly romantic; Falstaff, though not without prototypes, declares a sharp switch of direction. One begins to wonder, thinking again of Nashe's hopes of 'writing for the stage' in autumn 1596, not whether, but how closely, he and Shakespeare were associated" (92). In his edition J. Dover Wilson notes many parallels to Nashe and suggests that Nashe was involved in The Famous Victories of Henry the fifth (The First Part of the History of Henry IV [Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1946], 191-96). Critics have also noted resonances of Nashe and the Marprelate tracts in the Jack Cade scenes from 2 Henry VI; see, for example, Rhodes, 93-95.

88 Tribble, Margins and Marginality: The Printed Page in Early Modern England (Charlottesville and London: UP of Virginia, 1993), 109.

89 Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Vintage Books, 1979), 49.

90 [Nashe], Martins Months minde, sig. E3V; also quoted in Carlson, 72, and cited in Tribble, 108.

91 Tribble, 118, 119, and 121.

92Martins Months minde, sig. Dv .

93 Tribble, 117.

source: "Saints Alive! Falstaff, Martin Marprelate, and the Staging of Puritanism," in Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol. 46, No. 1, Spring, 1995, pp. 47-75.


Ritual and Ceremony in Shakespeare's Plays


Selected Studies of Shakespearean Production