Robert Greene (dramatist)
Robert Greene (11 July 1558 – 3 September 1592) was an English author best known for a posthumous pamphlet attributed to him, Greene's Groats-Worth of Wit, widely believed to contain a polemic attack on William Shakespeare. He was born in Norwich and attended Cambridge University, 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 autobiography, plays, and romances, while capitalizing on a scandalous reputation.
Greene was born in Norwich in 1558; however, biographers disagree whether Greene was the son of a humble saddler or of a more prosperous innkeeper with landowning relatives. He took his B.A. in 1580 and his M.A. in 1583 at St John's College, Cambridge, and became an M.A. of Oxford in 1588. Greene claimed to have married a well-off woman named Doll, and to have later abandoned her, after spending a considerable sum of her money.
In London, Greene managed to support himself through his own writing. He lived as a notorious intellectual and rascal, cultivating this reputation himself in pamphlets describing his adventures amid the seamier characters of Elizabethan England, and through a memorable appearance, with fashionable clothing and his pointy red beard.
He died on 3 September 1592, from what Nashe called a "banquet of Rhenish wine and pickled herring," perhaps having written on his death bed the famous Groatsworth of Wit Bought with a Million of Repentance and having dispatched a letter to his wife asking her to forgive him and to settle his debts.
By 1583 Greene had begun his literary career with the publication of a long romance, Mamillia, licensed in 1580. He continued to produce romances written in a highly wrought style, reaching his highest level in Pandosto (1588) and Menaphon (1589). Short poems and songs incorporated in some of the romances gave him high rank as a lyrical poet also. By rapid production of such works Greene became one of the first authors in England to support himself with his pen. One song from Menaphon Weep not my wanton smile upon my knee enjoyed immense success and is now probably his best-known work.
Greene wrote prolifically, struggling to support himself (and his recreational habits) in an age when professional authorship was virtually unknown. In his notorious "Coney-Catching" pamphlets, Greene fashioned himself into a well-known public figure, by telling colorful inside stories of rakes and rascals duping solid citizens out of their hard-earned money. These stories are always told from the perspective of a repentant former rascal, incorporating many facts of his own life thinly veiled as fiction. He pictures 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.
Greene wrote in a variety of genres. In addition to prose romances, Greene composed numerous moral dialogs, and even some scientific writings on the properties of stones and other matters.
Greene's plays include The Scottish History of James IV, Alphonsus, and his greatest popular success, Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay (c. 1589), as well as Orlando Furioso, based on Ludovico Ariosto's epic poem. He may also have had a hand in numerous other plays, and may have written a second part to Friar Bacon, (which may survive as John of Bordeaux).
In addition to his acknowledged plays, Greene has been proposed as the author of a range of other dramas, including The Troublesome Reign of King John, George a Greene, Fair Em, A Knack to Know a Knave, Locrine, Selimus, and Edward III, among others – even Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus.
Greene and Shakespeare 
The dramatist 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 the majority of scholars agree contains the earliest known mention of Shakespeare as a member of Elizabethan London's 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 which is purportedly 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".
Greene evidently complains of an actor who believes he can write as well as university-trained playwrights, alludes to the actor with a quotation from a Shakespearean play, and uses the term "Shake-scene," a unique term never used before or after Greene's screed, to refer to the actor. Though anti-Stratfordians argue that the early date of Greene's remark precludes a reference to Shakespeare (who in 1592 had no published works to his name), most scholars think that Greene's comment refers to Shakespeare, who would in this period have been an "upstart" as an actor who is writing and contributing to plays such as Henry VI, Parts 1-3 and King John, which were most likely written and produced (though not published) before Greene's death. Others argue that it is a reference to another actor, Edward Alleyn, whom Greene had attacked in an earlier pamphlet, using much the same language.
Some scholars think that all or part of the Groats-Worth may have been written shortly after Greene's death by one of his fellow writers (the pamphlet's printer, Henry Chettle, being the favoured candidate) hoping to capitalize on a lurid tale of death-bed repentance. Hanspeter Born, argues that Greene wrote the whole of Groats-Worth and that his deathbed attack on the „upstart Crow“ was provoked by Shakespeare’s interference with Greene’s play A Knack to Know a Knave. Why Greene was Angry at Shakespeare.
- Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay (circa 1590)
- The History of Orlando Furioso (circa 1590)
- A Looking Glass for London and England (with Thomas Lodge) (circa 1590)
- The Scottish History of James the Fourth (circa 1590)
- The Comical History of Alphonsus, King of Aragon (circa 1590)
- Selimus, Emperor of the Turks (1594)
- Mamillia(pt. 1) (circa 1580)
- Mamillia: The Triumph of Pallas(pt. 2)(1583)
- The Myrrour of Modestie (1584)
- The History of Arbasto, King of Denmarke (1584)
- Gwydonius (1584)
- Morando, the Tritameron of Love (1584)
- Planetomachia (1585)
- Morando, the Tritameron of Love (pt. 2)(1586)
- Euphues: His Censure to Philautus (1587)
- Greene's Farewell to Folly (circa 1587)
- Penelope’s Web (1587)
- Alcida (1588)
- Greenes Orpharion (1588)
- Pandosto (1588)
- Perimedes (1588)
- Ciceronis Amor (1589)
- Menaphon (1589)
- The Spanish Masquerado (1589)
- Greene's Mourning Garment (1590)
- Greene's Never Too Late (pts. 1&2)(1590)
- Greene's Vision (1590)
- The Royal Exchange* (1590)
- A Notable Discovery of Coosnage (1591)
- The Second Part of Conycatching (1591)
- The Black Books Messenger (1592)
- A Disputation Between a Hee Conny-Catcher and a Shee Conny-Catcher (1592)
- A Groatsworth of Wit Bought with a Million of Repentance (1592)
- Philomela (1592)
- A Quip for an Upstart Courtier (1592)
- The Third and Last Part of Conycatching (1592)
Notes and references 
- Venn, J.; Venn, J. A., eds. (1922–1958). "Greene, Robert". Alumni Cantabrigienses (10 vols) (online ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- L. H. Newcomb, ‘Greene, Robert (bap. 1558, d. 1592)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
- Logan and Smith, pp. 81-5.
- Born Hanspeter, „Why Greene was Angry at Shakespeare“, Medieval and Renaissance Drama 25 (2012), 133-173.
- Baskervill, Charles Read, ed. Elizabethan and Stuart Plays. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1934.
- Crupi, Charles. Robert Greene (1986) ISBN 0-8057-6905-6
- Dickenson, Thomas H. "Introduction" from The Complete Plays of Robert Greene (New Mermaid Edition, 1907)
- Greenblatt, Stephen. Will in the World (2005)
- Melnikoff, Kirk, ed.. "Robert Greene" (Ashgate, 2011)
- Melnikoff, Kirk and Edward Gieskes, eds. "Writing Robert Greene: Essays on England's First Notorious Professional Writer" (Ashgate, 2008)
- Logan, Terence P., and Denzell S. Smith, eds. The Predecessors of Shakespeare: A Survey and Bibliography of Recent Studies in English Renaissance Drama. Lincoln, NE, University of Nebraska Press, 1973.
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- The Dramatic Works of Robert Greene (1831), vol. 1 Dyce, ed., at Google Books.
- The Dramatic Works of Robert Greene (1831), vol. 2 Dyce, ed., at Google Books.
- The Plays and Poems of Robert Greene (1905) vol. 1 Churton Collins ed., at the Internet Archives.
- The Plays and Poems of Robert Greene (1905) vol. 2 Churton Collins ed., at the Internet Archives.
- The Honorable History of Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay 1594 text facsimile at the Internet Archives.
- The History of Orlando Furioso Malone Society Reprint, 1907, at Google Books.
- The Comical History of Alphonsus, King of Aragon at Elizabethan Drama.
- Greene's Groats-Worth of Wit e-text at Ex-Classics (modern spelling).
- Pandosto online.
- Hayashi, Tetsumaro, A Textual Study of Robert Greene's Orlando Furioso with an Elizabethan Text, 1973
- The Pamphleteers by James A. Oliver ISBN 978-0-9551834-4-7 (PBK) & ISBN 978-0-9551834-5-4 (HBK)