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Born in July 11, 1558 / Died in September 3, 1592 / United Kingdom / English


Other info : Career | Bibliography

Robert Greene (baptized 11 July 1558, died 3 September 1592) was an English author popular in his day, and now best known for a posthumous pamphlet attributed to him, Greenes, Groats-worth of Witte, bought with a million of Repentance, widely believed to contain an attack on William Shakespeare. He is said to have been born in Norwich.[1] He attended Cambridge, receiving a B.A. in 1580, and an M.A. in 1583 before moving to London, where he arguably became the first professional author in England. Greene published in many genres including romances, plays and autobiography.

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'.[1] He wrote prolifically; from 1583 to 1592 he published more than twenty-five works in prose, becoming one of the first authors in England to support himself with his pen in an age when professional authorship was virtually unknown.

Greene's literary career began with the publication of a long romance, Mamillia, entered in the Stationers' Register on 3 October 1580.[1] Greene's romances were written in a highly wrought style which reached its highest level in Pandosto (1588) and Menaphon (1589). 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, enjoyed immense success, and is now probably his best-known work.[citation needed]

In his later "coney-catching" pamphlets, Greene fashioned himself into a well-known public figure, telling colorful 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: his early riotous living, his marriage and desertion of his wife and child for the sister of a notorious character of the London underworld, his dealings with players, and his success in the production of plays for them. 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'.[1]

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:[21]

claimed from the outset a moral or civilizing purpose in his writing. 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.

In addition to his prose works, Greene also wrote several plays, none of them published in his lifetime,[1], including The Scottish History of James IV, Alphonsus, and his greatest popular success, Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay, as well as Orlando Furioso, based on Ludovico Ariosto's Orlando Furioso.

In addition to the plays published under his name after his death, Greene has been proposed as the author of several other dramas, including a second part to Friar Bacon which may survive as John of Bordeaux, The Troublesome Reign of King John, George a Greene, Fair Em, A Knack to Know a Knave, Locrine, Selimus, and Edward III, and even Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus and Henry VI plays.[22][1]