‘Marston wrote his father-in-law’s preachings, and his father-in-law his comedies’: Of Obedience, or Ecclesiastical Unity and the Dating of The Malcontent
Keywords:John Marston; , William Wilkes, Hampton Court 1604, puritans
The point of Jonson’s joke, that ‘Marston wrote his father-in-law’s preachings, and his father-in-law his comedies’ has never been explained. The discovery that the father-in-law, William Wilkes, quotes directly from The Malcontent in his Of Obedience, or Ecclesiastical Unity reveals an important context of the play, the puritan push for church reform from the beginning of James’s reign, culminating in the 1604 Hampton Court conference and the subsequent removal of nonconformists from the clergy. Wilkes and Marston were at one in resisting puritan ‘innovation’. This reference dates the play within the first year of the reign, probably to early 1604.
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