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Why did Robert Greene dislike Shakespeare?

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brandih | eNotes Employee

Posted August 25, 2013 at 3:07 PM via web

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Why did Robert Greene dislike Shakespeare?

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wordprof | College Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted August 25, 2013 at 4:07 PM (Answer #1)

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Besides the normal jealousy of a minor contemporary, Greene objected to the general popularity of Elizabethan theatre as an art, seeing it as a common entertainment appealing to the baser instincts in uneducated riff-raff, not worthy of the sophisticated criticism and attention of “learned” literary figures.   Greene did not see Shakespeare’s work as having any lasting value, and disputed his popularity – there were academic, university-trained, “wits” writing at this same time, in Greene’s eyes more deserving of the praise Shakespeare was receiving at the time (Greene was a Cambridge graduate).  His pamphlet, "Groat’s Worth of Wit," outlined his objections, “sharp and resentful.”  Although Shakespeare’s career was just beginning at the time of its publication (1592), it is considered to be a subtle reference to his early popularity.  Greene was especially upset that a mere “actor” had the temerity to think he could write a play.

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Stephen Holliday | College Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted August 25, 2013 at 4:38 PM (Answer #2)

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One of the most interesting consequences of Robert Greene's attack on Shakespeare, whom he referred to as "an upstart Crow . . . an absolute Johannes Factotum [man of all trades] . . . the only Shakescene in the country," is that we have more evidence that Shakespeare had become a prominent part of London's theater world by 1592, the year of Greene's attack.  

Greene's attack, included in Groats-worth of Witte (in which Greene also targeted other playwrights like Marlowe and Nashe), also provides important documentary evidence of Shakespeare's life, especially in the theater.  Up to the date of Greene's attack in 1592, the last indisputable evidence of Shakespeare's life came in 1585 when his twins were baptized.

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