Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay

by Robert Greene

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 260


*England. Greene’s idealistic portrait of a benevolently democratic English aristocracy may reflect the outburst of patriotism in England following the 1588 defeat of the Spanish Armada. Also indicative of this nationalistic theme are Friar Bacon’s plan to build a protective brass wall around England and his humiliation of the German emperor’s necromancer Jaques Vandermast. A noteworthy aspect of Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay is how it brings together royalty, nobility, and commoners, preserving some traditional class barriers but breaking through others.

Fressingfield Park

Fressingfield Park. Royal hunting preserve in Suffolk, where the play opens as the Prince of Wales and his entourage have been hunting deer before stopping for refreshment at the keeper’s lodge. There the prince falls in love with the keeper’s daughter, Margaret.


*Oxford. English town that is the seat of one of the country’s great universities. The play’s action moves between Fressingfield, a local fair, the Court of England, and Oxford, with Oxford clearly the showplace of the nation’s superior accomplishments and intellectual pursuits. While the Prince of Wales travels to Oxford—disguised as a gentleman in waiting—to seek the advice of Friar Bacon, and the friar himself conjures wonders and contemplates exotic feats, Margaret and friends go to Harleston Fair. As the king and his guests set out for Oxford, Friar Bacon sees through the prince’s disguise as he strolls the streets of Oxford, shows him Margaret being courted and won by a go-between, and magically stops their wedding by transporting Friar Bungay to Oxford.


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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 210

Clemen, Wolfgang. English Tragedy Before Shakespeare: The Development of Dramatic Speech. Translated by T. S. Dorsch. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1961. Concludes that the playwright does not maintain a “free and easy style,” though he does praise the language of Miles and Simnel as being “robust and realistic.”

Empson, William. Some Versions of Pastoral. New York: New Directions, 1974. This classic study shows that through the characterizations of Bacon and Margaret the playwright succeeds in developing a literary metaphor that likens magic and beauty and thus unifies the two plots.

Greene, Robert. Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay. Edited by Daniel Seltzer. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1963. Deals with such matters as the problem of dating the play, Greene’s use of his source, and occult science in the Renaissance.

Muir, Kenneth. “Robert Greene as Dramatist.” In Essays on Shakespeare and Elizabethan Drama in Honor of Hardin Craig, edited by Richard Hosley. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1962. Thinks Greene excelled as a prose writer, but respects the plotting of the play and shows how magic unifies it.

Parrott, Thomas Marc, and Robert Hamilton Ball. A Short View of Elizabethan Drama. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1943. An analysis of Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay that subsequent criticism has not yet superseded.

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Critical Essays