Robert Greene, Elizabethan Dramatist

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  1. Robert Greene (c)
  2. Robert Greene
  3. Robert Greene (dramatist)
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He was born in Norwich on July 11, After completing grammar school, Greene attended college at Cambridge and eventually Oxford. Greene claimed autobiographically to have marrd a gentlewoman named Doll and spent her fortune, after which he sent her back to her Lincolnshire family with a child.

William Shakespeare: Playwright, Poet, and Actor

He then traveled to London, where he became notorious for his lifestyle of debauchery which consisted of behaviors such as heavy drinking, consorting with prostitutes, and accumulating debt. Through his eloquent writing, Greene typically portrayed fresh female characters, depicting women as more faithful in matters of love.

Robert Greene (c)

Through his rapid production of works, Greene became one of the first English authors to support himself through his writing. Despite his controversial youth, he confessed the wickedness of his earlier ways, and his works often communicate themes of morality and repentance. Regardless of the reputation he acquired posthumously, throughout his lifetime Greene wrote an impressive range of prose romances, plays, and pamphlets. Moreover, he built a lasting persona through his works.

As a youth, Greene embraced a reckless lifestyle and publicly engaged in lewd behaviors.

Robert Greene

However, as he aged, he re-crafted his image by expressing remorse for his earlier ways. It is curious to note that Greene actually criticized theater as a genre of literature, yet he wrote five plays towards the end of his life. These plays also communicate moral messages and reflect the importance of human repentance.

Bacon, based off of the historic figure of Roger Bacon, creates and attempts to animate a bronze head. While he feels extreme remorse and regret for the actions of his past, he consoles himself with the thought that God will show him mercy in his repentance. Thus, Greene also incorporates religious beliefs into his writing.


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Greene therefore not only promotes moral growth but also communicates religious faith, contrasting sharply with the reckless persona he had exhibited as a youth. Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay also features a separate romance plot that ends with the marriage of two couples.

While celebrating the aristocracy and the court system of England, the play also encourages the ability to rise in status through honorable character Ardolino. For instance, the nobleman Lacie marries a country maid named Margaret. Despite her lower social status, she proves herself to be a morally upright character; she even decides to commit herself to a nunnery when she believes that Lacie has left her.

However "[E]xtensive searches of London and Norwich records by successive biographers have failed finally to locate the record of Greene's marriage". After his move to London Greene published over twenty-five works in prose in a variety of genres, becoming 'England's first celebrity author'. In he was granted an MA from Oxford University , "almost certainly a courtesy degree". Greene died 3 September , [15] [16] aged 34 if he was the Robert Greene baptised in His death and burial were announced by Gabriel Harvey in a letter to Christopher Bird of Saffron Walden dated 5 September, first published as a 'butterfly pamphlet' about 8 September, and later expanded as Four Letters and Certain Sonnets , entered in the Stationers' Register on 4 December According to The Repentance of Robert Greene , Greene is alleged to have written Groatsworth during the month prior to his death, including in it a letter to his wife asking her to forgive him and stating that he was sending their son to her.

No record of Greene's son by his wife has been found; however in Four Letters Gabriel Harvey claimed that Greene kept a mistress, Em, the sister of a criminal known as " Cutting Ball " hanged at Tyburn.

Robert Greene (dramatist)

Harvey described her as "a sorry ragged quean of whom [Greene] had his base son Infortunatus Greene". According to Newcomb, a Fortunatus Greene was buried at Shoreditch on 12 August , "whose folk-tale name might lie behind Harvey's jest". According to Newcomb '[Greene's] works evince an inexhaustible linguistic facility, grounded in wide if not painstaking reading in the classics, and extra-curricular reading in the modern continental languages'.

Greene's literary career began with the publication of a long romance, Mamillia , entered in the Stationers' Register on 3 October Short poems and songs incorporated in some of the romances attest to his ability as a lyric poet. One song from Menaphon , Weep not my wanton, smile upon my knee , a mother's lullaby to her baby son , enjoyed immense success, and is now probably his best-known work. In his later " coney-catching " pamphlets, Greene fashioned himself into a well-known public figure, telling colourful inside stories of rakes and rascals duping young gentlemen and solid citizens out of their hard-earned money.

These stories, told from the perspective of a repentant former rascal, have been considered autobiographical, and have been thought to incorporate many facts of Greene's own life thinly veiled as fiction: However, according to Newcomb, in his later prose works 'Greene himself built his persona around a myth of prodigal decline that cannot be taken at face value'. Richardson makes a similar argument, concluding that Greene's later works 'prejudice the examination of all the work before them', and that the prose works prior to the cony-catching and repentance pamphlets establish that 'initially at least Greene was respectable'.

Richardson considers that Greene: His tales repeatedly illustrate the disastrous disruptions caused in life by passion and laud the life of restraint. His views are basically conservative He equivocates and hesitates over the defence of the values of a conservative culture, virginity, true devotion, strict moral probity. Greene is most familiar to Shakespeare scholars for his pamphlet Greene's Groats-Worth of Wit , which alludes to a line, 'O tiger's heart wrapped in a woman's hide', found in Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part 3 c.

Greene evidently complains of an actor who believes he can write as well as university-educated playwrights, alludes to the actor with a quotation that appears in both the True Tragedy quarto and Shakespeare's Folio version of Henry VI, Part 3 , and uses the term "Shake-scene," a unique term never used before or after Greene's screed, to refer to the actor. The Oxford English Dictionary notes that it is "Of uncertain or vague meaning: Most scholars agree that Greene's comment refers to Shakespeare, who would at this time have been an "upstart" actor writing and contributing to Henry VI, Parts 1—3 and King John , [ citation needed ] which were most likely written and produced although not published before Greene's death.

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Greene's colourful and irresponsible character has led some, including Stephen Greenblatt , to speculate that Greene may have served as the model for Shakespeare's Falstaff. In the Ben Elton -written sitcom Upstart Crow , he is portrayed by Mark Heap as being alive following the publication of Groats-Worth and a constant obstacle to Shakespeare's success.

His most famous song Weep not my wanton is a recurring motif in the historical novel The Grove of Eagles by Winston Graham.