The name assumed by the authors of a number of anonymous pamphlets (seven are extant) issued in 1588–9 from a secret press, containing attacks in a railing, rollicking style on the bishops, and defending the Presbyterian system of discipline. They were stimulated by Archbishop Whitgift's attempts to impose uniformity in liturgical practice and to promote royal supremacy and the authority of the Articles.
The Marprelate tracts are among the best prose satires of the Elizabethan age. As well as ballads, rhymes, and plays, they provoked replies from such noted writers as Lyly and Nashe; Richard and Gabriel Harvey later became involved in the controversy. Hooker's work eventually settled the matter for the Church. The suspected authors, a Welshman named Penry and a clergyman named Udall, were arrested. The latter died in prison, the former was executed. Their collaborator, Job Throckmorton, denied his complicity at the trial of Penry, and escaped punishment.