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Journal > Volumes > 35 (2004) / 3 (Autumn)
The Character of an Antipuritan
Christopher Haigh
University of Oxford

This article considers antipuritans in Elizabethan and early Stuart England as they were portrayed in didactic texts, especially dialogues, and as they appear in court records. When godly Protestants were dubbed “puritan,” they responded with the antipuritan, a caricature of their critics as dull-witted despisers of religion who excused their indifference by calling the zealous “puritans.” The article then asks whether antipuritans were only a useful polemical fiction, and finds real antipuritans in the records of diocesan courts, visitations, and the Star Chamber. Real antipuritans used the same accusations of hypocrisy, spiritual pride, censoriousness, and disobedience as the fictional antipuritans used in the dialogues. In texts and in parishes, the “puritans” and the “ignorant” called each other names, deployed contending stereotypes, and offered rival versions of post-Reformation religion. What each had to say about the other offers insights into tensions within the Church of England.

Pages: 671 - 688