*London. The great city in this novel is never mentioned by name, but topical references, not to mention the prefatory material by the printer and the editor, clearly establish London as the novel’s principal setting. Indeed, the pamphlet is so steeped with the gritty reality of the sixteenth century London underworld that the dangers Greene points out seem as real to modern readers as those of any modern metropolis.
Autobiographical fables that begin the pamphlet set up the contrast between the bucolic delights of the poet’s country home and his years at Cambridge with the grimy, deceitful, rough-and-tumble, and ultimately destructive environment of the city. “Roberto,” the persona Greene gives himself at the beginning of this work, is easily swayed by the attractions of an irregular life in the underworld of London in the sixteenth century. He goes through a succession of seedy lodgings from which he flits one step ahead of the landladies who demand rent from him. He frequents taverns filled with thieves and con men. He is also a well-known patron of the brothels of the Bankside where, much to the despair of his long-suffering wife, he consorts with prostitutes, finally taking one as his mistress, only to contract a venereal disease from her. He loses whatever meager earnings he ekes out as a writer in the gambling dens. Finally, on his deathbed, he not only repents of his misspent life but warns his friends of how...
(The entire section is 469 words.)