Robert Greene

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Robert Greene, BA, MA, (1558 – September 3, 1592) was an English playwright, poet, pamphleteer, and prose writer. He was born in Norwich, England, and attended Cambridge University, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in 1580, and a Master of Arts in 1583.


  • 1 Life
  • 2 Writing
  • 3 Greene and Shakespeare
  • 4 References
  • 5 External links


Greene was one of the first men in England to make a living as a professional writer. The vast array of popular pamphlets, treatises, and miscellaneous prose works that Greene produced testify to his constant need for money to support the dissolute lifestyle that consumed his income, but that also provided a scandalous reputation that helped him to sell his writing.

Greene's contemporary (and inveterate critic) Gabriel Harvey claimed Greene died after a dinner wherein he overindulged in pickled herring and wine.


Greene's numerous "Coney-Catching" pamphlets are full of colorful inside stories of rakes and rascals duping solid citizens out of their hard-earned cash. These stories are always told from the perspective of a repentant former rascal, but few of Greene's contemporaries would have believed this repentance was more than an expedient fiction.

Greene's plays include The Scottish History of James IV, Alphonsus, and Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay (c. 1591), as well as Orlando Furioso, based on Ludovico Ariosto's epic poem. He may also had a hand in numerous other plays, and may have written a second part to Friar Bacon, (part of which may survive as John of Bordeaux).

Greene and Shakespeare

He is most familiar to Shakespeare scholars for his pamphlet Greene's Groats-Worth of Wit (full title: Greene's Groats-worth of Wit bought with a Million of Repentance), which contains the earliest known mention of Shakespeare as a member of the London dramatic community. In it, Greene disparages Shakespeare for being an actor who has the temerity to write plays, and for committing plagiarism. The passage quotes a line from Shakespeare's play Henry VI, part 3, but scholars are not agreed on exactly what is meant by this cryptic allusion:

"...for there is an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tygers hart wrapt in a Players hyde, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you: and being an absolute Johannes fac totum, is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrey".

It should be noted that all or part of the Groats-Worth may have in fact been written shortly after Greene's death by one of his fellow writers (the pamphlet's printer, Henry Chettle, is one candidate) hoping to capitalize on it with a lurid tale of death-bed repentance.

Greene's colorful and irresponsible character have led some, for example Stephen Greenblatt, to speculate that Greene may have served as the model for Shakespeare's Falstaff.

  • Crupi, Charles. Robert Greene (1986) ISBN-10: 0805769056
  • Dickenson, Thomas H. "Introduction" from The Complete Plays of Robert Greene (New Mermaid Edition, 1907)
  • Greenblatt, Stephen. Will in the World (2005)
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