May-Game of Martinism, The

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Nashe, Thomas (1589)

Historical Records

Nashe (?), Pasquil of England (1589)


I maruaile Caualiero, that you presse not the Martinists with much Scripture, they are great quoters of cōmon places if you marke them.


Therin they are like to a stale Curtizan, that finding herselfe to be worne out of credite, borroweth the gesture of a sober Matron, which makes her to euery one that knowes her, the more abhominable; for the common sorte whistle at her for her pride, and the grauer sort spyt at her for her impudencie. Howe whorishlie Scriptures are alleaged by them, I will discouer (by Gods helpe) in another new worke which I haue in hand, and intituled it, The May-game of Martinisme. Verie defflie set out, with Pompes, Pagents, Motions, Maskes, Scutchions, Emblems, Impreases, strange trickes, and deuises, betweene the Ape and the Owle, the like was neuer yet seene in Paris-garden. Penry the welchman is the foregallant of the Morrice, with the treble belles, shot through the wit with a Woodcocks bill, I woulde not for the fayrest horne-beast in all his Countrey, that the Church of England were a cup of Metheglin, and came in his way when he is ouēr-heated, euery Bishopricke woulde prooue but a draught, when the Mazer is at his nose. Martin himselfe is the Mayd-marian, trimlie drest vppe in a cast Gowne, and a Kercher of Dame Lawsons, his face handsomlie muffled with a Diaper-napkin to couer his beard, and a great Nosegay in his hande, of the principalest flowers I could gather out of all hys works. Wiggenton daunces round about him in a Cotten-coate, to court him with a Leatherne pudding, and a woodden Ladle. Paget marshalleth the way, with a couple of great clubbes, one in his foote, another in his head, & he cryes to the people with a loude voice, Beware of the Man whom God hath markt. I can not yet find any so fitte to come lagging behind, with a budget on his necke to gather the deuotion of the lookers on, as the stocke-keeper of the Bridewel-house of Canterburie; he must carrie the purse, to defray their charges, and then hee may be sure to serue himselfe.

(sigs.Biiir-v , via EEBO-TCP)

Lyly, Pap with a Hatchet (1589)

These Martins make the Scriptures a Scriueners shop to drawe conueyances, and the common pleas of Westminster to take forfeitures. Theyle not sticke to out-law a mans soule, and serue it presently with an execution of damnation, if one denie them to lie with his neighbours wife. If they bee drunke, they say, they haue Timothie his weake stomacke, which Saint Paule willeth to warme with wine.

They haue sifted the holie Bible, and left vs nothing as they say, but branne; they haue boulted it ouer againe and againe, and got themselues the fine meale; tis meale indeede, for with their wresting and shuffling holie Writ, they finde all themselues good meales, and stand at liuerie as it were, at other mens tables.

Sed heus tu, dic sodes, will they not bee discouraged for the common players? 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.

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. but in a cap'de cloake, and all the best apparell he ware the highest day in the yeare, thats neither on Christmas daie, Good fridaie, Easter daie, Ascension, nor Trinitie sundaie, (for that were popish) but on some rainie weeke-daie, when the brothers and sisters had appointed a match for particular praiers, a thing as bad at the least as Auricular confession.

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, qui tantum constans in knauitate sua est.

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 other.

(Marginal note: "If it be shewed at Paules, it will cost you foure pence: at the Theater two pence: at Sainct Thomas a Watrings nothing.")


Nashe (?), Martins Months Minde (1589)

The passage commencing alongside the marginal note, "The true manner of old Martins death" reads:

After that old Martin, hauing taken a most desperate cause in hand, as the troubling of the State, and ouerthrowe of the Church, (both which attempts at once, Alexander the Copper Smith, that did Paule so much harme, would neuer haue aduentured; nor Herostratus, that burned Dianas temple, by many degrees came neere vnto) and being therfore (and well worthie) sundrie waies verie curstlie handled; as first drie beaten, then whipt that made him winse, then wormd and launced, that he tooke verie grieuouslie, to be made a Maygame vpon the Stage, and so bangd, both with prose and rime on euerie side, as he knewe not which way to turne himselfe, and at length cleane Marde: the griefe whereof vext him out of all crie; and that if he were taken, it was to be feared he should be made a Bishop (of the fields) which name he neuer loued, and to weare a tippet, that he euer detested: but especiallie being drawne so drie (so as he could say no more,) in conclus. wherby his radicall moisture began to faile him, and his vitall powers in such sort to decaie, as he saw that he could not long continue; but especiallie, that his labours being so great, tooke none effect, but was termed, by some a Vice, by some a Viper, by some a Scismatique, by some a Traitor; and that euerie stage Plaier made a iest of him...

(Nashe, Martins Months Minde, sigs.E3v-E4r; emphasis in bold added).

NB. A note in the margin along "to be made a Maygame" reads: "The Theater."

Nashe (?), The First Part of Pasquil's Apology (1590)

If this peace wyll not be had at theyr handes, that haue so long troubled the Church of GOD among vs I cast then my Gauntlet, take it vp who dares, Martin or any other, that can drawe out any Quintessence of villanie beyoynde Martin, the cause shall not want a Champion.

I haue nowe gallopped the fielde to make choyse of the ground where my battaile shall be planted. And when I haue sent you the May-game of Martinisme, at the next setting my foote into the styroppe after it, the signet shall be giuen, and the fielde fought. Whatsoeuer hath beene written to any purpose of eyther side, shal be ledde out into the plaine, the foote men and horse, small shotte and artilerie shall be placed: euery troupe, wing and squadron ordered, and the banners displayed. Therwithall I will make both Armies meete, and the battaile ioyne, bullet to bullet, staffe to staffe, pyke to pyke, and sworde to sworde; the blowes dealt, and the breache made vpon the Puritanes shall be discouered, you shall see who be falne and who be fledde, what Captaines are slaine, and what Ensignes taken.

It shall be shewen howe like a good Generall the Archb. of Canterburie hath behaued himselfe with his battle-axe, and howe the braynes of Tho. Cartwright flye thys way and that way, battered and beaten out, euery bone in his bodie pittifullie broken, and his guttes trayling vpon the grounde: heere a legge, and there an arme, of his followers shall be gathered vppe, and the carkases of the deade, like a quarrie of Deare at a generall hunting, hurled vppon a heape. Wherein my Supplication shall be to the Queenes most excellent Maiestie at the end, that our Conquerors returning from the chace, may by vertue of her highnesse fauour and authoritie, holde still the honour which they haue wonne, and well deserued, in the seruice of GOD, and the crowne of England.

Therefore as the Reformer hath made proclamation for Armour and Munition, desiring you to help him to a booke of Church discipline, which he sayth was written in the dayes of King Edward the sixt, the Authors whereof, he sayth, were M. Cranmer, and Sir Iohn Cheeke. The like proclamation make I in his behalfe, because mine, peraduenture, will come to more handes then his. Furnish him I pray you, the better he is prouided, the greater honour it will be to ouerthrowe him. I would be glad he should haue it, (if there be any such) and sette downe what he can ere I come foorth againe, that I may driue all before me, and roote out the verie name of a Puritane from vnder heauen.

(sigs.D4v-E1r, via EEBO-TCP)

Theatrical Provenance

Children of Paul's, and at the Theatre? (unacted)

Probable Genre(s)


Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

For a description of some of the contents of the play, see Historical Records above.

References to the Play

"The May-Game of Martinism" is implicitly amongst those objected to by the Privy Council (on 12 November 1589) as plays "wherein the players take uppon them without judgement or decorum to handle matters of Divinitye and State" (Dasent, Acts of the Privy Council, vol.18 (1589-90), 215).

Critical Commentary

Not in Harbage.

Wiggins 836 notes that Nashe's account of Martin's death uses the term "Maygame" but that the account was published too early (in August) to be a description of the play and is more likely the inspiration for the play's title. (It is curious, though, that the context, "made a Maygame vpon the Stage", sounds intuitively more like a reference to the play than an inspiration, as does the past-tense reference to every stage player having "made a iest of him"). He further notes of Lyly's lament (that "those comedies might be allowed to be played that are penned") that Lyly was writing before the Privy Council asked Whitgift, Hart and Tilney to form a committee to license playtexts, "so it seems likely that this (or yet another?) play got into its own censorship difficulties" and "this may indeed by why Tilney approached Burghley in the first place with a view to securing a broader ban".

For What It's Worth

(Information welcome)

Works Cited

Lyly, John. Pappe with an hatchet Alias, a figge for my God sonne. Or cracke me this nut. Or a countrie cuffe, that is, a sound boxe of the eare, for the idiot Martin to hold his peace, seeing the patch will take no warning. VVritten by one that dares call a dog, a dog, and made to preuent Martins dog daies. London, 1589. STC 17463
Nashe, Thomas. The first parte of Pasquils apologie Wherin he renders a reason to his friendes of his long silence: and gallops the fielde with the Treatise of reformation lately written by a fugitiue, Iohn Penrie. London, 1590. STC 19450, EEBO-TCP (Open Access)
Nashe, Thomas. Martins months minde that is, a certaine report, and true description of the death, and funeralls, of olde Martin Marreprelate, the great makebate of England, and father of the factious. Contayning the cause of his death, the manner of his buriall, and the right copies both of his will, and of such epitaphs, as by sundrie his dearest friends, and other of his well willers, were framed for him. London, 1589. STC 17452.
Nashe, Thomas. The returne of the renowned caualiero Pasquill of England, from the other side the seas, and his meeting with Marforius at London vpon the Royall Exchange VVhere they encounter with a little houshold talke of Martin and Martinisme, discouering the scabbe that is bredde in England: and conferring together about the speedie dispersing of the golden legende of the liues of the saints. London, 1589. STC 19457 EEBO-TCP (Open Access)

Site created and maintained by David McInnis, University of Melbourne; updated 21 March 2017.