THE anti-Martinist tract An Almond for a Parrat, which has been confidently ascribed to Thomas Nashe, contains a number of references to drama and the theatrical arts.1 Previous accounts of Almond include McKerrow, McGinn, Drew, Hibbard, and Steggle who all credit its authorship to Nashe. The forthcoming The Nashe Project will also be including this work amongst Nashe’s collected works. These dramatic references discussed here show how Nashe effectively argued against the legitimacy of the Martinist cause by using familiar and commonplace terms to influence the public as well as giving the reader further evidence that Nashe was more heavily involved in the theatrical arts than has historically been thought. The pamphlet, written by the pseudonymous Cuthbert Curry-Knave, begins with a dedicatory letter addressed: To that most Comicall and conceited Caualeire, Monsieur du Kempe, Iestmonger and vice-gerent generall to the Ghost of Dicke Tarlton.2 Monsieur du Kempe is obviously Will Kemp, the celebrated clown who acted in numerous plays and succeeded Richard Tarlton, also mentioned here, as the best known clown in England. It is significant that this figure is chosen by Cuthbert to be the dedicatee as he knows that this is a name his reader will recognize and that he is also one who is easily identifiable as a theatrical clown or fool. In this instance we must consider the status of the fool in general and specifically Kemp and Tarlton at this time. As Rasmussen and De Jong note in their article ‘Shakespeare’s Fools’. While we might think little of the buffoonery of a Nick Bottom or the witticisms of a Feste, Shakespeare, his contemporaries in the early modern professional theatr, e and especially his audiences, valued clowning highly.3 By dedicating this work to Kemp, Nashe has chosen someone of significant enough fame to get the reader’s attention but also signifies this pamphlet will not be straightforward and obvious to understand. Choosing Kemp and referencing him alongside Tarlton suggests that this pamphlet contains more nuance than has previously been found in this exchange. Later in the dedication Nashe references an equally well-known theatrical character; that of Harlequin from the Commedia dell’arte. Nashe shows his familiarity with the genre by describing the character as ‘that famous Francatrip’ Harlicken’ referring to Harlequin by both his familiar name and an alternative often used within the Commedia dell’arte.4 When asking Nashe if he has heard of ‘Signior Chiarlatano Kempino’,5 Harlequin describes him and his ilk as ‘any such Parabolano’ which is an archaic Italian word which translates as both ‘false’ and ‘a great talker’6 which easily describes the role of an actor, but in this instance given its capitalization is more likely to refer to the character who appears in Pietro Aretino’s play La Cortigiana. In response Nashe notes that he knows Kempino ‘Very well . . . and haue beene oft in his company’.7 Nashe has never previously been thought of as an actor so this comment may be another Nashean flight of fancy; in the same passage for example he describes travelling back from Venice and Bergamo and all evidence points to Nashe having never left England. Finally the dedicatory note is signed off with ‘Thine in the way of brotherhood, Cuthbert Curry-Knaue’8 suggesting that Nashe, like Kemp and Tarlton is also a role-player and in this instance he has taken the role of Cuthbert, the anti-Martinist writer. There are obvious and prosaic reasons why Nashe used a pseudonym to write this pamphlet; it is the use of ‘brotherhood’ which indicates in this instance he considers himself as a contemporary of Kemp and Tarlton and part of the acting fraternity. While the dedication to Almond is the most overtly ‘dramatic’ reference to be found in this work, it is not the only one. In his collected works Nashe employs the word ‘stage’ on almost twenty occasions; in this relatively short tract the word appears three times. The first occurrence is in the very first line of the main pamphlet when Martin’s re-appearance into the fray is greeted with ‘Welcome Mayster Martin from the dead, and much good ioy may you haue of your stage-like resurrection’.9 By characterizing Martin’s return as ‘stage-like’ and by introducing his tract in this way, Nashe immediately infers that Martin’s position is all an act and calls its legitimacy into question. The first thing this pamphlet does is indicate that Martin’s actions, words, and the whole Martinist argument are to be doubted and to be treated in a similar manner to a stage production. Nashe is disparaging the whole argument by linking it to fiction and suggesting that the Martinist argument has little factual basis. This equivalence continues and becomes clearer when Nashe notes later ‘My selfe doe knowe a zealous preacher in Ipswich that, beeing but a while a goe a stage player, will now take vpon him to brandish a text agaynst Bishoppes as well as the best Martinist in all Suffolke’10 with Nashe accusing the Martinists to be false in deed and that they are merely converted actors playing the part of religious reformists. The identity of this preacher remains in question with McKerrow noting ‘I cannot identify him’.11 However one plausible candidate may be John Burges, the noted Puritan and religious controversialist,12 became a preacher in Ipswich in 1592. Burges was also a student at Nashe’s Alma Mater St John’s College, Cambridge and attended at the same time as the author. St John’s, of course, was particularly noted for its vigorous traditions of student drama, in which Nashe himself took part. It is my contention that Burges is the former ‘stage player’ turned ‘zealous preacher’ that Nashe is referring to at this point. The usage of ‘stage-player’ also stresses that the Martinist argument has no solidity and is merely another role for people to take up and present as the truth when in reality it is simply nothing more than a ruse. Nashe is commenting that the Martinist positions are acting roles with lines to be read from a page like a script and can be done so by one without a religious calling. The final use of ‘stage’ further re-enforces this position when it appears around midway through the tract with Nashe writing Therefore we must not measure of Martin as he is allied to Elderton or tongd like Will Tony, as he was attired like an ape on ye stage or sits writing of Pãphlets in some spare out-house, but as hee is Mar-Prelat of Englãd, as he surpasseth King & colier, in crying, So ho ho, brother Bridges.13 Nashe goes further than he has previously in this instance not only equating the Martinist cause with dressing like an ape in a play but also to writing in a toilet. This is Nashe’s way of telling the Martinists how much value their writings actually have; the act of writing in a toilet is clearly drawing a parallel between that and other bathroom related activities. The statement also speaks to Nashe’s larger point; acting like an ape which would generally be a non-speaking, physical role, has the same worth and longstanding value as these other two actions. Nashe, when deciding how to belittle the Martinists is constantly comparing them not only with appearing in plays but also with the lowest, most basic parts that an actor can have. This should be compared with the kinds of roles taken by Almond’s dedicatees Will Kemp and Richard Tarlton; although Kemp was more of a physical actor than his predecessor, his roles still involved the clever word play and character interactions that Tarlton made famous and that Nashe admired; in Kemp’s hands the role of the fool was still highly prized and in many cases as important as that of the leads. The names Nashe uses here also provide an interesting counterpoint to the dedicatees: Elderton is William Elderton, the ballad writer and sometime actor friend of Robert Greene. The identity of Will Tony remains elusive with McKerrow stating ‘I can give no information about this person. One may safely infer that he was notorious for the scurrility of his language’.14 Nungezer in A Dictionary of Actors notes that ‘Will Tony seems to have acted Martin Marprelate’15 taking this information directly from Almond itself. Neither of these names are actors of the same stature of Kemp or Tarlton with Elderton being better known as a writer and Tony now forgotten. This would be a deliberate choice; Nashe references notable actors to strengthen his position but uses lesser names when discussing Martin to belittle his cause. It should also be noted that Nashe’s ‘ape’ comparison is a theme which recurs throughout the anti-Martinist writings; notably by Lyly who penned the tract A Whip for an Ape, a poem which contains fifteen references to this animal. The Lost Plays Database also describes The May-Game of Martinism, a tract potentially written by Nashe in which Martin is portrayed as an ape.16 David McInnes notes that this play is referred to in four other tracts; three of which were potentially written by Nashe. This includes Pasquil of England, in which the author writes ‘I will discouer (by Gods helpe) in another new worke which I haue in hand, and intituled it, The May-game of Martinisme’.17 At this stage it is yet to be proven that Nashe is the anonymous writer of Pasquil so I would hesitate to use this as evidence that Nashe also wrote May-game. Nashe’s final theatrical reference appears near the end of the tract when, to prove he is arguing seriously, he informs Martin that ‘I come not abruptly to thee like a rednosde jeaster’18 continuing his overarching theme. When Nashe wants to belittle or demean he references the lowest form of theatre he can imagine, slapstick and physical comedy, and—in order to prove that his position has been firmly thought out, well-reasoned, and above all else correct—the easiest way to do this is by distancing himself from this form. The references and the themes introduced in An Almond for a Parrat are later echoed in a number of Nashe’s pamphlets indicating that this tract is most likely to be his work. Although he may have only had his name attached to a small number of plays, Nashe is being linked with some of the more significant dramatic works of the time including 1 Henry VI and Dido with growing numbers of modern scholars adding weight to this argument.19 We are increasingly seeing Nashe as more of a dramatist and the theatrical references found in Almond fit nicely into this line of contemporary thought. Footnotes 1 Thomas Nashe, An Almond For a Parrat, The Works of Thomas Nashe, ed. R. B. McKerrow, rev. F. P. Wilson, 5 vols (Oxford 1958), III, 337–76, and McKerrow’s note at IV, 59–62; All quotations from Thomas Nashe are taken from this edition unless otherwise stated; Donald J. McGinn, ‘Nashe’s share in the Marprelate controversy’, PMLA, lix (1944), 952–84; Philip Drew, ‘Nashe’s authorship of An Almond for a Parrat’, N&Q, ccv (1960), 216–17; Philip Drew, ‘Thomas Nashe, Sebastian Münster, and An Almond for a Parrat’, N&Q, ccv (1960), 378–80; G. R. Hibbard, Thomas Nashe: A Critical Introduction (London, 1962), 37–48; Matthew Steggle, ‘The Manipulus Florum in An Almond for a Parrat’, N&Q, ccl (2005), 178–82. 2 Nashe, An Almond For a Parrat, The Works of Thomas Nashe, III, 341, lines 1–5. 3 Eric Rasmussen and Ian De Jong, Shakespeare’s Fools, <https://www.bl.uk/shakespeare/articles/shakespeares-fools> [accessed 11 October 2017]. 4 Nashe, An Almond For a Parrat, III, 342, line 16. 5 Nashe, An Almond For a Parrat, III, 342, line 21. 6 Nashe, An Almond For a Parrat, III, 343, line 20. This word does not appear to be in current use or have a modern translation. I have found this translation in The New Pocket-dictionary of the Italian and English Languages by Giuspanio Graglia, Jakob Gråberg från Hemsö, Marianna De Marinis, printed in the Phænix’s Printing House 1818, 359. 7 Nashe, An Almond For a Parrat, III, 343, lines 21–22. 8 Nashe, An Almond For a Parrat, III, 343, lines 14–15. 9 Nashe, An Almond For a Parrat, III, 344, lines 2–3. 10 Nashe, An Almond For a Parrat, III, 351, lines 7–10. 11 McKerrow, Notes to Nashe, An Almond For a Parrat, IV, 466. 12 For further information about Burges please see Elizabeth Allen, ‘Burges, John (1563–1635)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2009. 13 Nashe, An Almond For a Parrat, III, 354, lines 20–24. 14 Mckerrow, Notes to Nashe, An Almond For a Parrat, IV, 466. 15 Edwin Nungezer, A Dictionary of Actors (New York, 1971), 374. 16 “May-Game of Martinism, The”. Lost Plays Database. Ed. Roslyn L. Knutson, David McInnis, and Matthew Steggle (Melbourne, 2017). <https://www.lostplays.org/index.php?title=May-Game_of_Martinism> [accessed 19 October 2017]. 17 Anonymous, 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. 18 Nashe, An Almond For a Parrat, III, 374, line 9. 19 The Thomas Nashe Symposium held at the Globe Theatre on 20 May 2017 by the Thomas Nashe Project had speakers such as Bart Van Es, editor of Summer’s Last Will and Testament for the project and Matthew Dimmock, who will be editing Dido to be included within the dubia section of the works. © The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: email@example.com
Notes and Queries – Oxford University Press
Published: Mar 1, 2018
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