Marprelate controversy (mär´prĕl´Ĭt), a 16th-century English religious argument. Martin Marprelate was the pseudonym under which appeared several Puritan pamphlets (1588–89) satirizing the authoritarianism of the Church of England under Archbishop John Whitgift. The church replied in kind, but silenced the pamphleteer only after a reaction against him by the more conservative Puritans and after the use of police powers by Whitgift. A flood of both Martinist and anti-Martinist literature followed, to which Thomas Nashe, John Lyly, and Richard Harvey are supposed to have contributed. The true identity of Martin Marprelate has never been determined, but John Penry may have been the chief author.
See The Marprelate Tracts (ed. by W. Pierce, 1911, repr. 1967); E. Arber, An Introductory Sketch to the Martin Marprelate Controversy, 1558–1590 (1895, repr. 1967); D. J. McGinn, John Penry and the Marprelate Controversy (1966).