According to the best, albeit sketchy, evidence, Robert Greene was born in Norwich, Norfolk, in 1558, of a saddler and his wife. It is certain that this ambitious son of bourgeois parents went on to St. John’s College, Cambridge, in 1576 on a sizar’s appointment (a sort of work-study position by which scholars earned their keep, usually as valets for sons of aristocrats). Though Greene’s record at St. John’s appears to have been undistinguished, he did take his baccalaureate in 1580. Greene continued his studies at Cambridge and received his master of arts degree from there in 1583, the same year in which his first prose romance, Mamillia: A Mirror or Looking Glass for the Ladies of England, was published. A second master’s, from Oxford, came in 1588; this degree was more a formality than the result of further study. There is no evidence that after 1583 Greene intensely pursued any course other than the winning of a large, eager audience in London for his romances, plays, and pamphlets.
Concerning Greene’s no doubt adventurous life as a writer in London from 1583 until his death in 1592, there is much rumor and rancor but little solid fact. His publication record indicates that he was immensely popular; his title pages from 1588 onward include his name within the titles themselves, as in Greene’s Mourning Garment and Greene’s Never Too Late. His friend Thomas Nashe declared that printers felt “blest to pay him...
(The entire section is 568 words.)