Authors: Robert Greene

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

English playwright and essayist

Author Works

Drama:

Alphonsus, King of Aragon, pr. c. 1587

Orlando furioso, pr. c. 1588 (verse play)

A Looking Glass for London and England, pr. c. 1588-1589 (verse play; with Thomas Lodge)

Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay, pr. c. 1589 (verse play)

John of Bordeaux, pr. c. 1590-1591 (fragment; verse play)

James IV, pr. c. 1591 (verse play)

Complete Plays, pb. 1909

Long Fiction:

Mamillia: A Mirror or Looking Glass for the Ladies of England, 1583, 1593 (2 parts)

Arbasto: The Anatomy of Fortune, 1584

The Mirror of Modesty, 1584

Morando: The Tritameron of Love, 1584, 1587 (2 parts)

Planetomachia, 1585

Euphues His Censure to Philautus, 1587

Penelope’s Web, 1587

Alcida: Greene’s Metamorphosis, 1588 (poetry and prose)

Pandosto: The Triumph of Time, 1588

Perimedes the Blacksmith, 1588

Ciceronis Amor, 1589 (also known as Tullies Love)

Menaphon, 1589

Francesco’s Fortunes, 1590

Greene’s Mourning Garment, 1590

Greene’s Never Too Late, 1590

Greene’s Farewell to Folly, 1591

Greene’s Vision, 1592

Philomela: The Lady Fitzwater’s Nightingale, 1592

Poetry:

Alcida: Greene’s Metamorphosis, 1588 (poetry and prose)

A Maiden’s Dream, 1591

Nonfiction:

The Spanish Masquerado, 1589

The Royal Exchange, 1590

A Notable Discovery of Cozenage, 1591

The Second Part of Conny-Catching, 1591

The Third and Last Part of Conny-Catching, 1592

The Defense of Conny-Catching, 1592

A Disputation Between a Hee Conny-Catcher and a Shee Conny-Catcher, 1592

The Black Book’s Messenger, 1592

A Quip for an Upstart Courtier, 1592

Greene’s Groatsworth of Wit Bought with a Million of Repentance, 1592

The Repentance of Robert Greene, 1592

Miscellaneous:

Life and Complete Works in Prose and Verse, 1881-1886 (15 volumes)

Biography

Robert Greene was a prolific and versatile writer. His euphuistic prose romances, though popular in their day, hold little interest now, but his pamphlets, some of which relate to the Marprelate controversy, still make lively reading and are biographically indispensable. Greene was not, on the face of it, a conspicuously original writer. Just as his prose tales owe much to John Lyly, so do his earlier plays run heavily into debt to Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Kyd. Alphonsus, King of Aragon closely follows the style of Marlowe’s Tamburlaine (c. 1587), while Orlando furioso follows the same model but adds a considerable amount of Senecan matter directly inspired by Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy (c. 1586). There is little that is memorable in these or in A Looking Glass for London and England, which Greene wrote in collaboration with Thomas Lodge. His sole claim to dramatic distinction rests on Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay and James IV, two romantic comedies in which individual qualities are at last apparent. Friar Bacon is an extraordinary compound of comedy, tragedy, pastoral, romance, magic, and buffoonery. It has little recognizable structure and could, in fact, end at any point after the beginning of the third act. Friar Bacon himself serves to unify the curious jumble by virtue of his magic. The results of his necromancy, as Greene depicts them, must have made this the most spectacular Elizabethan play since Tamburlaine. James IV, a more orthodox romance based on a novella by Cinthio (Giovanni Battista Giraldi), bears what was perhaps an intentionally misleading title, for it was written at a time when other dramatists were capitalizing on a vogue for chronicle histories. These, it would seem, were the vested interest of William Shakespeare, Marlowe, and George Peele; Greene’s title may have been retaliation for his exclusion, which accounts also for his bitter attacks in Greene’s Groatsworth of Wit Bought with a Million of Repentance.{$I[AN]9810000565}{$I[A]Greene, Robert}{$I[geo]ENGLAND;Greene, Robert}{$I[tim]1558;Greene, Robert}

Greene refers to a comedy that he wrote in collaboration with a “young Juvenal, that biting satirist,” presumably Thomas Nashe, but the play has not survived. Various anonymous plays have been attributed to him, including George-a-Greene, Selimus, and the pseudo-Shakespearian Locrine. The evidence is interesting but far from conclusive, and the fact that Francis Meres, who is usually precise, does not mention Greene among the writers of tragedy seems to rule out Greene’s claims to Selimus and Locrine.

Greene studied at Cambridge, where his life appears to have been dissipated, and the dissipation persisted during his subsequent travels in Italy and Spain. His own descriptions of his life (in his various autobiographical pamphlets) are not edifying. It has been said that he died after consuming large amounts of pickled herrings and Rhenish wine.

BibliographyCarroll, D. Allen. “The Player-Patron in Greene’s Groatsworth of Wit.” Studies in Philology 91 (Summer, 1994): 301-312. Discusses the character and identity of the anonymous actor who recruits Greene’s persona to be a playwright; suggests he may be a fictional character rather than based on William Shakespeare or someone else.Chandler, David. “‘Upstart Crow’: Provenance and Meaning.” Notes and Queries 42 (September, 1995): 291-294. Discussion of the “upstart Crow” reference to Shakespeare in Greene’s Groatsworth of Wit; suggests that the reference may refer to a clash between Shakespeare and Greene in more dramatic terms than was previously suspected.Crupi, Charles W. Robert Greene. Boston: Twayne, 1986. Crupi’s publication addresses Greene’s life based on relevant biographical and historical research printed since 1960. Crupi includes two comprehensive chapters dealing with Greene’s prose works and plays. The work also contains extensive notes and references, a chronology, and a select bibliography of primary and secondary sources.Davis, Walter R. Idea and Act in Elizabethan Fiction. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1969. This work devotes one chapter to Greene’s works and the elements of Greek romance inherent in the works. Davis divides Greene’s career into four periods–the euphuistic mode, the short tales or novellas, the pastoral romances, and the pamphlets of repentance, roguery, and other nonfiction. The works are discussed in terms of plot and Greene’s development among genres.Hoster, Jay. Tiger’s Heart: What Really Happened in the Groat’s-Worth of Wit Controversy of 1592. Columbus, Ohio: Ravine Books, 1993. Attempts to separate fact from fiction as to the authorship of Greene’s Groatsworth of Wit Bought with a Million of Repentance. Includes bibliographical references and index.Jordan, John Clark. Robert Greene. New York: Octagon Books, 1965. Jordan’s book is considered a main source for critics concerned with Greene’s work. He presents Greene as a man of letters, who was an expert at narrative. The text includes a discussion of Greene’s poetry, plays, and nondramatic work. A bibliography and appendices are included. The appendices contain a framework for Greene’s tales, misconceptions about Greene’s life and career, as well as accounts of early allusions to Greene.Sanders, Norman. “The Comedy of Greene and Shakespeare.” In Early Shakespeare, edited by John Russell Brown and Bernard Harris. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1961. Sanders traces Greene’s development as a writer, particularly his move from imitation to invention and creativity. He discusses the love plots contained in Greene’s romantic comedies as compared to those of William Shakespeare. While he mentions the similarities in development of both playwrights, Sanders does not set out to prove that Greene influenced Shakespeare’s works.Simpson, Richard, ed. The School of Shakespeare. Vol. 2. New York: J. W. Bouton, 1878. Simpson’s work is a nineteenth century account of Greene’s life and work. He explores the relationship between William Shakespeare and Greene as contemporaries and rivals. The volume also contains plot information and a discussion of themes in Greene’s plays and other fiction.
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