Thomas Lodge is best known for his prose romances, which are among the precursors of the novel. The most famous of these prose romances, Rosalynde: Or, Euphues Golden Legacy (1590), was William Shakespeare’s major source for As You Like It (pr. c. 1599-1600). Lodge also published several collections of poetry, a volume of poetic satire (A Fig for Momus, 1595), translations of Flavius Josephus (1602) and Seneca (1614), and a commentary on du Bartas (1621). Most of Lodge’s works are available in the four-volume The Complete Works of Thomas Lodge (1883).‘
Although Thomas Lodge is better known for his lyric poetry and his romances than for his drama, his two extant plays have an important place in the history of the English drama. Lodge was a competent if not a brilliant writer, and, more important, he was an innovative one. The Wounds of Civill War is one of the earliest dramas to be written principally in blank verse and may be the earliest extant example of an English drama based on classical history, a mode that became very popular with later Elizabethan playwrights. A Looking Glass for London and England provides almost a summary of the various strands of drama being woven together by Lodge and his contemporaries to form the framework of the drama of the Elizabethan period. Elements from both of the plays were borrowed by more successful playwrights whose works eventually overshadowed Lodge’s. Lodge’s drama remains important, however, from a historical standpoint and for its influence on his more brilliant contemporaries.
Thomas Lodge wrote widely in genres other than poetry. His first prose work was A Reply to Gosson (1580), an answer to Stephen Gosson’s School of Abuse (1579). His prose romances include The Delectable History of Forbonius and Prisceria (1584), Rosalynde: Or, Euphues Golden Legacy (1590), Euphues Shadow (1592), and A Margarite of America (1596). Other prose works encompass miscellaneous subject matter: a biography, The Famous, True, and Historical Life of Robert Second Duke of Normandy (1591); an invective in dialogue form, Catharos (1591); and a historical narrative, The Life and Death of William Long Beard (1593). An Alarum Against Usurers (1584), an exposé of contemporary money lenders, has the strong moral message of A Looking Glass for London and England (pr. c. 1588-1589), the play that Lodge wrote with Robert Greene. In about 1586, The Wounds of Civill War, another play he had written, was produced. His pamphlets on philosophical and religious topics include The Diuel Coniured (1596), Prosopopeia (1596), and Wits Miserie and Worlds Madnesse (1596). His later works are translations (The Flowers of Lodowicke of Granado, 1601; The Famous and Memorable Works of Josephus, 1602; The Works, both Morall and Natural, of Lucius Annaeus Seneca, 1614; A Learned Summary upon the Famous Poem of William of Saluste, Lord of Bartas, 1625) and medical works (A Treatise on the Plague, 1603; The Poore Mans Talentt, 1621).
Thomas Lodge’s poetry displays a facility in versification that, by itself, would mark him as a poetic talent. His experiments with verse forms—quatrains and couplets in Scillaes Metamorphosis, sonnets of ten to thirty-two lines ranging from tetrameters to hexameters in the poems appended to Scillaes Metamorphosis, poems mixing long and short lines in the miscellanies, and iambic pentameter couplets in the satires—show him to be much concerned with the craft of poetry, even when his experiments are not successful. He shows the same eagerness in trying new types of poems and subject matter, and his works range from sonnets to verse epistles, complaints, satires, eclogues, lyrics, and Ovidian narrative. His debt to the Romans in his verse epistles, satires, and Ovidian narrative is one that later writers also incurred, and Lodge to a great extent introduced these literary forms into English. Not all his works are equally successful, and his facility at versification and image making sometimes produces trivial or precious poems; nevertheless, he did point the way to later poetic development in English literature.
Beecher, Donald, ed. Rosalind: Euphues’ Golden Legend Found After His Death in His Cell at Silexdra (1590). Ottawa: Dovehouse, 1996. A scholarly, critical edition of Lodge’s most famous work, which was rewritten by William Shakespeare into the play As You Like It. Includes an introduction and notes.
Conlon, Raymond, “Lodge’s Rosalind.” The Explicator 50, no. 1 (Fall, 1991): 7. Lodge’s pastoral romance “Rosalind” is examined. Two sacrificial scenes in which Adam Spencer plays the dual role of nourisher and liberator of Rosader are discussed as part of a pattern in which the functions of the servant have symbolic importance.
Donno, Elizabeth Story. “The Epyllion.” In English Poetry and Prose, 1540-1674, edited by Christopher Ricks. New York: Peter Bedrick Books, 1986. A leading authority on Elizabethan narrative poetry. Donno illuminates the conventions and qualities which characterize the forms. Places Lodge clearly against his cultural background. The thorough index demonstrates Lodge’s manifold activities, and the bibliography covers all major works.
Hulse, Clark. Metamorphic Verse: The Elizabethan Minor Epic. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1981. Hulse’s book is the modern authoritative study of the minor epic genre. Covers the field thoroughly, although much of the material is technical and sophisticated. The bibliography and index are complete.
Lodge, Thomas. Rosalind: Euphues’ Golden Legacy Found After His Death in His Cell Silexedra (1590). Edited by Donald Beecher. Ottawa: Dovehouse Editions, 1997. Beecher provides an informative introduction. Bibliographical references, index.
Ostriker, Alicia, and Leslie Dunn. “The Lyric.” In English Poetry and Prose, 1540-1674, edited by Christopher Ricks. New York: Peter Bedrick Books, 1986. Ostriker and Dunn divide the field here, the former taking verse written independently, the latter lyrics written for music—a division first made during the Elizabethan period. Lodge is covered in both categories. The index demonstrates more of his diversity, and the bibliography collects the primary sources.
Rae, Wesley D. Thomas Lodge. New York: Twayne, 1967. A critical biography of Lodge that includes a chronology, an index, and a detailed bibliography.
Ryan, Pat M. Thomas Lodge, Gentleman. Hamden, Conn.: Shoestring Press, 1958. Ryan’s book is a study of Lodge’s life and work, intended for a general audience.
Tenney, Edward Andrews. Thomas Lodge. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1935. Tenney’s book is a critical biography that traces Lodge’s life and his experiments with a variety of literary forms. Particular attention is paid to Lodge’s contribution to the development of the novel form.