Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Robert Greene

Robert Greene was an English author best known today for a posthumously published pamphlet attributed to him, Greene's Groats-Worth of Wit, which may contain a polemic attack on William Shakespeare. He was born in Norwich and attended Cambridge University, receiving a BA in 1580, and a MA 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 as to whether Greene was the son of a humble saddler, or a more prosperous innkeeper with land-owning 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 became a principal member of the loose association known as the University Wits, and 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 his contempoary Thomas 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.

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