Robert Greene Additional Biography

Biography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Robert Greene was a prolific and versatile writer. His euphuistic prose romances, though popular in their day, hold little interest now, but his pamphlets, some of which relate to the Marprelate controversy, still make lively reading and are biographically indispensable. Greene was not, on the face of it, a conspicuously original writer. Just as his prose tales owe much to John Lyly, so do his earlier plays run heavily into debt to Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Kyd. Alphonsus, King of Aragon closely follows the style of Marlowe’s Tamburlaine (c. 1587), while Orlando furioso follows the same model but adds a considerable amount of Senecan matter directly inspired by Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy (c. 1586). There is little that is memorable in these or in A Looking Glass for London and England, which Greene wrote in collaboration with Thomas Lodge. His sole claim to dramatic distinction rests on Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay and James IV, two romantic comedies in which individual qualities are at last apparent. Friar Bacon is an extraordinary compound of comedy, tragedy, pastoral, romance, magic, and buffoonery. It has little recognizable structure and could, in fact, end at any point after the beginning of the third act. Friar Bacon himself serves to unify the curious jumble by virtue of his magic. The results of his necromancy, as Greene depicts them, must have made this the most spectacular...

(The entire section is 453 words.)