How could the Foundations of the English Church Withstand the Bang that Never Was?
The Southern African Society for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (SASMARS)
We shall probably never know whether the Gunpowder Plot was primarily the work of Roman Catholic extremists or Sir Robert Cecil’s securocrats. But its discovery in November 1605, and the new oath of allegiance that was subsequently devised, certainly posed a serious threat to the divided Church of England, Catholic and Reformed. Robert Persons, exiled leader of the English Jesuits, and John Donne, apprentice Protestant apologist, confronted this threat in revealingly different ways. Persons believed that the oath would cut off English Christians from the roots of their faith, while Donne feared that blood would be shed over the splitting of hairs, and the nation would be even more deeply divided. The battle of books over the new oath of allegiance constitutes, thus, a late development in the politicization of the discourse of martyrdom.
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