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[ROBERT GREENE, the contemporary and friend of Peele, and one of the most profligate and unfortunate of the Elizabethan dramatists, was born in Norwich, probably about 1560; Dyce, however, dating his birth ten years earlier. He was educated at Cambridge, where he took the degree of B.A. in 1578, and that of M.A. in 1583. He was also connected in some way with Oxford, -he himself vaunting that he was a Master of Arts of both Universities. The interval between 1578 and 1583 he spent in travelling through Spain, Italy, and other parts of the continent. The following extract from his work, The Repentance of Robert Greene (1592), will give the reader an idea of the life he led while there, and after he returned home :
'For, being at the University of Cambridge, I lit amongst wags as lewd as myself, with whom I consumed the flower of my youth ; who drew me to travel into Italy and Spain, in which places I saw and practised such villany as is abominable to declare. Thus, by their counsel, I sought to furnish myself with coin, which I procured by cunning sleights from my father and my friends; and my mother pampered me so long, and secretly helped me to the oil of angels, that I grew thereby prone to all mischief: so that, being then conversant with notable braggarts, boon companions, and ordinary spendthrifts, that practised sundry superficial studies, I became as a scion grafted into the same stock, whereby I did absolutely par. ticipate of their nature and qualities. At my return into England, I ruffled out in my silks in the habit of malcontent, and seemed so discontent, that no place would please me to abide in, nor no vocation cause me to stay myself in; but, after I had by degrees proceeded Master of Arts, I left the University and away to London, where, after I had continued some short time, and driven myself out of credit with sundry of my friends, I became an author of plays, and a penner of line-pamphlets, so that I soon grew famous in that quality, that who, for that trade, known so ordinary about London as Robin Greene? Young yet in years, though old in wickedness, I began to resolve that there was nothing bad that was profitable; whereupon I grew so rooted in all mischief, that I had as great a delight in wickedness as sundry have in godliness, and as much felicity I took in villany as others had in honesty.'
It is doubtful whether our author was the 'Robert Greene' mentioned as being one of the Queen's chaplains in 1576, although there is good reason for believing that he did enter the Church, and was presented to the vicarage of Lollesbury in Essex in 1584, resigning it, however, next year, probably because he found the clerical profession and a country life incompatible with his unholy tastes. That Greene was married is certain,–Dyce thinks in 1586,--and it is as certain, that although on his own authority his wife was a most amiable and loving woman, he ere long forsook her to indulge without restraint his passion for debauchery and every species of self-indulgence. After leaving his wife, he lived with a woman, the sister of an infamous character, well known then under the name of 'Cutting Ball,' and by her he had a son who died the year after his father. After leading one of the maddest lives on record, he died a miserable death on the 3d of September 1592, his last illness being caused by a surfeit of Rhenish wine and pickled herrings. On his deathbed he was deserted by all his former boon companions except his mistress, and was indebted to the wife of a poor shoemaker for the last bed on which he laid his miserable body-his dying injunction to his compassionate and admiring hostess being to crown his vain head after
death with a garland of bays. This request, it seems, the poor woman attended to. On his deathbed he wrote his Repentance, in which he expresses the greatest contrition for his mis. spent life, and beseeches all his old companions to take warning by his sad fate and repent ere it be too late. Appended to his Groat's Worth of Wit, which is to a great extent autobiographical, and which he finished on his deathbed, is a sad and tender letter to his wife, expressing great sorrow for his treatment of her, and imploring her forgiveness. He also left a note to her, beseeching her, ‘by the love of our youth and my soul's rest,' to reimburse the shoemaker, whose wife had befriended him in his last and friendless days. Although Greene's character may have been made blacker than it really was by the enmity of Gabriel Harvey, the friend of Spenser, still there is no room for doubt that a sadder life and death could not possibly be imagined.
Greene wrote many prose stories, and pamphlets of various kinds, many of which are interesting, and all were highly popular and extensively read; but it is only with his dramatic works we are concerned here. Five dramas are still extant which were undoubtedly written by Greene: The History of Orlando Furioso, one of the Twelve Peers of France, not printed till 1594, but probably one of his earliest plays ; The Honourable History of Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay, first published in 1594, but written much earlier ; The Scottish History of James the Fourth, slain at Flodden (1598); The Comical History of Alphonsus, King of Arragon (1599); and, along with Lodge, A Looking-Glass for London and England (1594). Another play, superior to any of the above, is by some authorities attributed to Greene, but the testimony as to its authorship is very slender; it is entitled George-a-Green, the Pinner of Wakefield (1599). As a dramatist, Greene occupies about the same rank as Peele, and was one of the first to introduce blank verse on the stage. His versification is not so smooth as that of Peele ; but as it is more broken, it is less tedious. His dramas possess no very striking merit, although there is an occasional vigour of language, richness of fancy, originality of thought, and a distinctness and consistency in the portrayal of character. They are, however, much disfigured by bombast, affectation, and pedantry, his lowest boors and most ignorant dairy-maids being made to interlard their talk with classical allusions that would be pedantic even in an Oxford Don. The drama we have selected as a specimen is by many considered his best, and in it he has followed the wellknown prose tract, entitled The Famous History of Friar Bacon. The character of Margaret, the fair maid of Fressingfield, is, however, original; the humour of Miles is often genuine and pleasing.)
THE HONOURABLE HISTORY OF FRIAR BACON AND
AS IT WAS PLAYED BY HER MAJESTY'S SERVANTS.
MADE BY ROBERT GREENE, MASTER OF ARTS.
London: Printed for Edward White, and are to be sold at his shop, at the little North door of
Paul's, at the sign of the Gun. 1594.
Enter PRINCE EDWARD malcontented, with LACY,
WARREN, ERMSBY, and RALPH SIMNELL. Lacy. Why looks my lord like to a troubled sky
Erms. Sirrah Ralph, what say you to your
master, Shall he thus all amort' live malcontent?
Ralph. Hearest thou, Ned ?-Nay, look if he will speak to me!
P. Edw. What say'st thou to me, fool ?
Ralph. I prithee, tell me, Ned, art thou in love with the Keeper's daughter ?
P. Edw. How if I be, what then?
Ralph. Why, then, sirrah, I'll teach thee how to deceive Love.
P. Edw. How, Ralph ?
Ralph. Marry, Sirrah Ned, thou shalt put on my cap and my coat and my dagger, and I will put on thy clothes and thy sword; and so thou shalt be
fool. P. Edw. And what of this?
Ralph. Why, so thou shalt beguile Love ; for Love is such a proud scab that he will never meddle with fools nor children. Is not Ralph's counsel good, Ned? P. Edw. Tell me, Ned Lacy, didst thou mark
the maid, How lovely in her country-weeds she look'd ? A bonnier wench all Suffolk cannot yield, All Suffolk! nay, all England holds none such.
Ralph. Sirrah Will Ermsby, Ned is deceived. Erms. Why, Ralph ?
Ralph. He says all England hath no such ; and I say, and I'll stand to it, there is one better in Warwickshire.
2 launds-lawns, 3 Stripp'd-outstripped. * A leaser was a kind of hound. 5 frolic---frolicsome, joyful. 6 dump was formerly applied to a melancholy strain of music, and was also used as equivalent to sorrow.
? jocund-jocose, merty.
& stammel-a kind of woollen cloth. According to Nares, stammel was a coarse kind of red, inferior to tinc scarlet; but Halliwell says it was a kind of fine worsted; and Dyce a sort of woollen cloth: here, it appears to be applied to a garment.
I all amort, and sometimes alamort; probably Fr. & la mort, to the death, lifeless, dejected—but sometimes used as if equivalent to all as if dead.'
- scabaccording to Halliwell-ape; used as a terın of contempt.
War. How provest thou that, Ralph ?
Now, sir, when she comes into a great press 1 of Ralph. Why, is not the abbot a learned man, people, for fear of the cutpurse, on a sudden and hath read many books, and thinkest thou she'll swap thee into her plackerd;a then, sirrah, he hath not more learning than thou to choose being there, you may plead for yourself. a bonny wench? Yes, warrant I theo, by his Erms. Excellent policy! whole grammar;
P. Edw. But how if I be a wrought smock? Erms. A good reason, Ralph.
Ralph. Then she'll put thee into her chest and P. Edw. I tell thee, Lacy, that her sparkling lay thee into lavender, and upon some good day eyes
she'll put thee on; and at night when you go to Do lighten forth sweet love's alluring fire; bed, then being turned from a smock to a man, And in her tresses she doth fold the looks
you may make up the match. Of such as gaze upon her golden hair:
Lacy. Wonderfully wisely counselled, Ralph. Her bashful white, mix'd with the morning's red, P. Edw. Ralph shall have a new coat. Luna doth boast upon her lovely cheeks;
Ralph, God thank you when I have it on my Her front is beauty's table, where she paints back, Ned. The glories of her gorgeous excellence;
P. Edw. Lacy, the fool hath laid a perfect plot; Her teeth are shelves of precious margarites, For why 3 our country Margaret is so coy, Richly enclos'd with ruddy coral cleeves.2 And stands so much upon her honest points, Tush, Lacy, she is beauty's over-match,
That marriage or no market with the maid. If thou survey'st her curious imagery.
Ermsby, it must be necromantic spells Lacy. I grant, my lord, the damsel is as fair And charms of art that must enchain her love, As simple Suffolk's homely towns can yield; Or else shall Edward never win the girl. But in the court be quainter dames than she, Therefore, my wags, we'll horse us in the morn, Whose faces are enrich'd with honour's taint, 3 And post to Oxford to this jolly friar: Whose beauties stand upon the stage of fame, Bacon shall by his magic do this deed, And vaunt their trophies in the courts of love. War. Content, my lord; and that's a speedy P. Edw. Ah! Ned, but hadst thou watch'd her
way as myself,
To wean these headstrong puppies from the teat. And seen the secret beauties of the maid,
P. Edw. I am unknown, not taken for the Their courtly coyness were but foolery.
Therefore I have devis'd a policy.
That come to see and to be seen that day. And div'd them into milk to run her cheese; Haunt thee disguis'd among the country swains, But whiter than the milk her crystal skin, Feign thou’rt a farmer's son, not far from thence, Checked with lines of azure, made her blush * Espy her loves, and who she liketh best; That art or nature durst bring for compare. Cote 4 him, and court her to control the clown; Ermsby,
Say that the courtier tirèd all in green, If thou hadst seen, as I did note it well,
That help'd her handsomely to run her cheese, How beauty play'd the huswife, how this girl, And fill'd her father's lodge with venison, Like Lucrece, laid her fingers to the work, Commends him, and sends fairingss to herself. Thou wouldst, with Tarquin, hazard Rome and all Buy something worthy of her parentage, To win the lovely maid of Fressingfield.
Not worth her beauty; for, Lacy, then the fair Ralph. Sirrah Ned, wouldst fain have her? Affords no jewel fitting of the maid. P. Edw. Ay, Ralph.
And when thou talk'st of me, note if she blush: Ralph. Why, Ned, I have laid the plot in my Oh, then she loves; but her cheeks wax pale, head; thou shalt have her already.
Disdain it is. Lacy, send how she fares, P. Edw. I'll give thee a new coat, an learn 5 And spare no time nor cost to win her loves. me that.
Lacy. I will, my lord, so execute this charge Palph. Why, Sirrah Ned, we'll ride to Oxford As if that Lacy were in love with her. to Friar Bacon. Oh, he is a brave scholar, sirrah; P. Edw. Send letters speedily to Oxford of the they say he is a brave necromancer, that he can mako women of devils, and he can juggle cats Ralph. And, Sirrah Lacy, buy me a thousand into costermongers.
thousand million of fine bells. P. Edw. And how then, Ralph ?
Lacy. What wilt thou do with them, Ralph? Ralph. Marry, sirrah, thou shalt go to him: Ralph. Marry, every time that Ned sighs for and because thy father Harry shall not miss thee, the Keeper's daughter, I'll tie a bell about him : he shall turn nie into thee; and I'll to the court
, and so within three or four days I will send word and I'll prince it out; and he shall make thee to his father Harry, that his son and my master either a silken purse full of gold, or else a fine Ned, is become Love's morris-dance.' wrought smock. P. Edv. But how shall I have the maid ?
Ralph. Marry, sirrah, if thou be'st & silken press-crowd. purse full of gold, then on Sundays she'll hang
plackerd or placket, sometimes means petticoat, and
sometimes pocket, and is frequently used in an indecent thee by her side, and you must not say a word.
sense; it probably comes from Fr. plaquer, to clap on.
3 For why-because.
4 Cote to pass the side of another, to outstrip; here margarites--pearls, from Greek.
probably 'keep by his side;' Fr, cote, side; coytoer, to cleeres or clires was the old plural of cliff.
keep alongside of. 3 taint_tint.
s fuiring-a present bought at a fair; still used in * made her blush, &c.-Dyce thinks this means 'made Scotland. (wonld have made) that woman blush whom art,' &c. 6 A morris-dance was a Moorish dance, in which bells, • an learn-if thou wilt learn,
rattles, &c., were introduced.
P. Edw. Well, Lacy, look with care unto thy I have contriv'd and fram'd a head of brass charge
(I made Belcephon hammer out the stuff), And I will haste to Oxford to the friar,
and that by art shall read philosophy: That he by art, and thou by secret gifts
And I will strengthen England by my skill, May'st make me lord of merry Fressingfield. That if ten Cæsars liv'd and reign'd in Rome, Lacy. God send your honour your heart's With all the legions Furope doth contain, desire.
[Exeunt. They should not touch a grass of English ground;
The work that Ninus rear'd at Babylon, Enter Friar Bacon and MILES with books under The brazen walls fram'd by Semiramis, his arm; BURDEN, Mason, and CLEMENT.
Carv'd out like to the portal of the sun,
From Dover to the market-place of Rye.
Burd. Is this possible ? Miles. Hic sum, doctissime et reverendissime
Miles. I'll bring ye two or three witnesses. doctor. 1
Burd. What be those?
Miles. Marry, sir, three or four as honest devils habitare libros in unum !3
Mason. No doubt but magic may do much in Bacon. Now masters of our academic state,
this; That rule in Oxford, viceroys in your place,
For he that reads but mathematic rules Whose heads contain maps of the liberal arts,
Shall find conclusions that avail to work Spending your time in depth of learned skill,
Wonders that pass the common sense of men. Why flock you thus to Bacon's secret cell,
Burd. But Bacon roves a bow beyond his A friar newly stall'd in Brazen-nose ?
reach, Say, what's your mind, that I may make reply. Burd. Bacon, we hear that long we have Thinking to get a fame by fooleries.
And tells of more than magic can perform ; suspect That thou art read in magic's mystery ;
Have I not pass'd as far in state of schools,
And read of many secrets? yet to think In pyromancy, to divine by flames;
That heads of brass can utter any voice, To tell, by hydromatic, ebbs and tides;
Or more, to tell of deep philosophy; By aeromancy to discover doubts,
This is a fable Æsop had forgot. To plain out questions, as Apollo did.
Bacon. Burden, thou wrong'st me in detracting Bacon. Well, Master Burden, what of all this? Miles. Marry, sir, he doth but fulfil, by re
Bacon loves not to stuff himself with lies. hearsing of these names, the fable of the Fox and the Grapes ; that which is above us pertains Of certain questions I shall move to thee?
But tell me, 'fore these doctors, if thou dare, nothing to us.
Burd. I will : ask what thou can. Burd. I tell thee, Bacon, Oxford makes report,
Miles. Marry, sir, he'll straight be on your Nay, England, and the court of Henry says,
pick-pack, to know whether the feminine or the Thou'rt making of a brazen head by art, Which shall unfold strange doubts and aphorisms,
masculine gender be most worthy. And read a lecture in philosophy;
Bacon. Were you not yesterday, Master BurAnd, by the help of devils and ghastly fiends,
den, at Henley-upon-the-Thames?
Burd. I was; what then? Thou mean'st, ere many years or days be past,
Bacon. What book studied you thereon all night? To compass England with a wall of brass.
Burd. I! none at all; I read not there a line. Bacon. And what of this?
Bacon. Then, doctors, Friar Bacon's art knows Miles. What of this, master! Why he doth
naught. speak mystically; for he knows if your skill fail to make a brazen head, yet Mother Water's strong Doth he not touch you ?
Clem. What say you to this, Master Burden? ale will fit his turn to make him have a copper
Burd. I pass3 not of his frivolous speeches. Clem. Bacon, we come not grieving at thy skill, hath done with you, will turn you from a doctor
Miles. Nay, Master Burden, my master, ere he But joying that our académy yields
to a dunce, and shake you so small, that he A man suppos'd the wonder of the world;
will leave no more learning in you than is in For if thy cunning work these miracles,
Bacon. Masters, for that learn'a Burden's skill
is deep, And statues, such as were built up in Rome,
And sore he doubts of Bacon's cabalism, Etérnize Friar Bacon for his art.
I'll show you why he haunts to Henley oft; Mason. Then, gentle friar, tell us thy intent.
Not, doctors, for to taste the fragrant air, Bacon. Seeing you come as friends unto the
But there to spend the night in alchemy, friar,
To multiply with secret spells of art;
Thus private steals he learning from us all. And dim fair Luna to a dark eclipse.
To prove my sayings true, I'll show you straight The great arch-ruler, potentate of hell,
The book he keeps at Henley for himself.
rores a bou, &c. 'To rore a bow beyond his reach What art can work, the frolic friar knows;
is equivalent to the proverbial phrase of shooting with And therefore will I turn my magic books, a long bow: the bow is too long for the stretch of his And strain out necromancy to the deep.
arms.'—Editor of Dodsley's Old Plays. Rove meant to shoot an arrow at an elevation for a distant mark-not point-blank.
? pick-pack, the older form of pick-a-back, i.e. carried 1 Here I am, most learned and most reverend teacher.' like a pack over the shoulder. 2 Hast thou brought us my books on necromancy?' pass-care for, or regard.
3. Behold how good and pleasant it is to keep books 4 cabalism-secret power. Cabala among the Jews in one place!'
was a method of interpreting the hidden meaning of 4 Resolve you-be assured.