Authors: Thomas Nashe

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

English playwright, novelist, and essayist

Author Works


Dido, Queen of Carthage, pr. c. 1586-1587 (with Christopher Marlowe)

Summer’s Last Will and Testament, pr. 1592

The Isle of Dogs, pr. 1597 (with Ben Jonson; no longer extant)

Long Fiction:

The Unfortunate Traveller: Or, The Life of Jack Wilton, 1594 (includes poetry)


The Choise of Valentines, 1899


Preface to Robert Greene’s Menaphon, 1589

The Anatomie of Absurditie, 1589

An Almond for a Parrat, 1590

Preface to Sir Philip Sidney’s Astrophel and Stella, 1591

Pierce Penilesse, His Supplication to the Divell, 1592 (includes poetry)

Preface to Robert Greene’s A Quip for an Upstart Courtier, 1592

Strange News of the Intercepting of Certain Letters, 1592 (includes poetry; also known as The Four Letters Confuted)

Christ’s Tears over Jerusalem, 1593

The Terrors of the Night, 1594

Have with You to Saffron-Walden, 1596

Nashe’s Lenten Stuffe, 1599


The dramatist, novelist, and pamphleteer Thomas Nashe was the son of a minister. He spent several years at St. John’s College, Cambridge, and received his degree in 1585. By 1588 he was living in London, trying to make a living with his pen as one of the so-called University Wits. Among his friends were Robert Greene, Samuel Daniel, Thomas Lodge, and Christopher Marlowe.{$I[AN]9810000096}{$I[A]Nashe, Thomas}{$I[geo]ENGLAND;Nashe, Thomas}{$I[tim]1567;Nashe, Thomas}

At this time Puritan writers, under the pseudonym of Martin Marprelate, were attacking the bishops and the government of the Church. Using the name Pasquil, Nashe joined the controversy against the Puritans, especially against Gabriel Harvey. His contributions to the “paper war” include Strange News of the Intercepting of Certain Letters, Christ’s Tears over Jerusalem, and Have with You to Saffron-Walden.

The most notable of his works was a picaresque novel of romantic adventure entitled The Unfortunate Traveller: Or, The Life of Jack Wilton, the story of a page who attends the earl of Surrey on his Grand Tour and who marries a Venetian lady. The use of realistic detail in this work set the pattern for the novels of Daniel Defoe. Nashe also wrote several plays, among them Dido, Queen of Carthage (written together with Marlowe), and Summer’s Last Will and Testament, which was originally a masque presented at the house of Sir George Carey. A lost play, The Isle of Dogs, a slanderous work of which he wrote at least a part, led to his being sentenced to the Fleet prison, a sentence he seems to have avoided somehow. He died in 1601, probably at Yarmouth.

BibliographyCrewe, Jonathan V. Unredeemed Rhetoric: Thomas Nashe and the Scandal of Authorship. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982. A study of the conflict between orthodox values and a cynical perception of society’s injustice and exploitation that cuts across Nashe’s career, complicating and adding tension to his work.Helgerson, Richard. The Elizabethan Prodigals. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977. Nashe and his colleagues Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Kyd, George Peele, Robert Greene, and Thomas Lodge, all with university training, formed a group of literary bohemians in London. Helgerson catalogs their escapades and relates them to their lives.Hilliard, Stephen S. The Singularity of Thomas Nashe. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1986. Hilliard takes a fresh look at Nashe’s life and writing, discovering the distinctive qualities of his wit and style and showing how they transformed both poetry and prose.Holbrook, Peter. Literature and Degree in Renaissance England: Nashe, Bourgeois Tragedy, Shakespeare. Cranbury, N.J.: Associated University Presses, 1994. A historical study of political and social views in sixteenth century England.Hutson, Lorna. Thomas Nashe in Context. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. Considers Thomas Nashe within his social and historical milieu.McGinn, Donald J. Thomas Nashe. Boston: Twayne, 1981. Contains insightful commentary on Nashe’s life and works. Focuses on Nashe’s works as portrayals of the various types of middle-class Londoners–their appearance, their manners, and their customs.Nicholl, Charles. A Cup of News: The Life of Thomas Nashe. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1984. This scholarly biography sets a high standard. In addition to substantial discussions of Nashe’s life and writings, Nicholl includes illustrations of portraits and scenes, as well as reproductions of relevant documents.Nielson, James. Unread Herrings: Thomas Nashe and the Prosaics of the Real. New York: Peter Lang, 1993. This study examines Nashe’s use of realism in his works. Bibliography.
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