Published online by Cambridge University Press: 08 June 2019
Chapter Three explores a series of polemical adaptations to the long poem A Lytell Geste how the Ploughman Learned his Pater Noster (1510), arguing that the figure of the simple English countryman came to embody national tradition. First emerging in the Tudor rediscovery of the reformist ploughman and the poetics of Protestant plainness, Luke Shepherd’s John Bon and Mast Parson (1548) reflects an understanding of the common man as naturally Protestant. During the second half of the sixteenth century this figure became assimilated to a recusant aesthetic, first as comedy in Nicholas Udall’s Ralph Roister Doister (1552) Respublica (1553) and William Stevenson’s Gammer Gurton’s Needle (c. 1553), and then tragically in John Heywood’s Pater Noster poems (c. 1550) and Thomas Deloney’s ‘A pleasant Dialogue betweene plaine Truth, and blind Ignorance’ (c. 1588). Both discourses, however, shared an understanding of the common man as an embodiment of English tradition and as a therefore a source of political and theological legitimacy.