Published online by Cambridge University Press: 08 June 2019
This chapter considers the attempt during the Marprelate controversy (1589–90) to reprise the rhetoric of plain Englishness as both presbyterian polemic and comic commodity represents a complex set of nostalgias: not for just the medieval history of reformist ploughmen but the more recent reformist era of the 1540s. This bid for authenticity, however, is destabilised by both the tracts’ use of ‘tradition’ as a foil for stylistic experiment and their perceived affinity with the entertainment economy of the late 1580s. As the last part of the chapter argues, ‘Martinism’ was partly the creation of ‘anti-Martinism’ and these salient features can be read through the work of the anti-Martinist critics, in particular pamplets by John Lyly, Robert Greene, and Thomas Nashe. The close attention they pay to the textual detail of the tracts represents its own critical tradition, one minutely sensitive to the contemporary resonances of their linguistic affect.