“After the pure manner of Amsterdam”: Baptism in the Post-Reformation Church of England and Thomas Middleton’s A Chaste Maid in Cheapside

김보민 /Bomin Kim

2018, vol.28, no.1, pp. 107-129

This paper uncovers a reference to puritan contentions about baptism in The Chaste Maid in Cheapside so far unnoticed by scholarship. Puritan objections to the liturgy for baptism had remained fairly constant from early on in the Reformation: the surplice worn by the minister in church services, crossing of the infant’s forehead, surrogation of the godparents for the infant in baptismal interrogatories, and lay baptism. More radical attacks on baptism as prescribed by the Book of Common Prayer called for abolishing the institution of godparents itself, preferring the father of the infant to present the child for baptism. Baptismal presentation by the father brought the Protestant emphasis on baptism as an instrument for the implementation of discipline to its logical conclusion; the father pledged profession of the faith on behalf of his child and he was to be tasked with its spiritual education. Coupled with the demand for empowering parish ministers to be able to excommunicate parishioners, the projected abolishment of godparents amounted to limiting membership of the congregation to “visible saints,” thus negating the inclusive principle of the church of England. I argue that it is this puritan agenda that is dramatized when Walter Whorehound serves as a godfather in his natural daughter’s baptism, and brought to the audience’s attention when the puritan gossips congratulate Mrs. Allwits on having her daughter “well kersened i’ the right way,/ Without idolatry or superstition,/ After the pure manner of Amsterdam.” The mockery of puritan baptism should not be understood to constitute conclusive evidence of Middleton’s personal anti-puritanism, however; for the play’s satire is ecumenical even in its travestying of King James’s pet project of Lenten observance.