George Gascoigne Additional Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

George Gascoigne (GAS-koyn), who was possibly born in Cardington, was a member of a Bedfordshire family that was in a position to educate him and send him to Trinity College, Cambridge. He does not seem to have been successful there, for he left the university without a degree and entered Gray’s Inn in 1555. From 1557 to 1559 he was a representative for his county in Parliament. While attending Gray’s Inn he joined a small group, and as a part of his initiation he had to compose five poems written in five different meters on five different themes.

About this time he attempted the expensive life of a courtier, but he ended up deeply in debt, and his father disinherited him because of his riotous living. Giving up this type of life, he returned to Gray’s Inn where his Supposes, a translation of a prose comedy by Ariosto, and Jocasta, the first English-language translation of a Greek tragedy, were performed in 1566.

In 1561 he married Elizabeth Bacon Bretton Boyes, who had been left a wealthy widow upon the death of her first husband, William Bretton, in 1559. She had thereupon married a man named Edward Boyes, but her sons from the first marriage had disputed the legality of the second marriage ceremony. After Elizabeth divorced her second husband, she married Gascoigne, but her sons then questioned the legal date of the divorce.

Gascoigne may at this time have returned to the ways of his youth, for in 1572 a petition prevented him from taking his seat in Parliament, whereby he could have pleaded immunity from arrest by his creditors. The petition stated, among other things, that “he is a defamed person and noted as well for manslaughter as for other greate cryemes,” and referred to him as a “common Rymer” and “notorious Ruffianne.”

Perhaps for these...

(The entire section is 750 words.)