The University Wits: John Lyly, Thomas Kyd, George Peele, Thomas Lodge, Robert Greene, Thomas Nash and Christopher Marlowe

The Starting Words: The University Wits were all men of academic training. Saintsbury calls them the ‘mighty group of plannings who founded the English drama’. They had training at one of the two universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Read More History of English Literature (Essay) It was on account of their associations with the two universities that they were called University wits. They were fully undersea the influence of the Renaissance that was in its full bloom during their time. These keen students of and Literature had been brought in to personal touch with the new learning. They found drama most convened to their tastes and temperament: and favorably sited to their learning and training. The group of University with consist of john Lyly, Thomas kids George Peele , Thomas Lodge, Robot Greene, Thomas Nash and Christopher Marlowe. Now let us discus their contributions on English drama.

John Lyly: Lyly was the earliest of this group. He wrote eight plays. Unlike the rest of the group Lyly wrote for the court, not for the public theatres. Some of his plays are allegorical and mythical in tone some are realistic and some are historical in nature. Lyly greatly contributed to the formation of the Romantic comedy. Read More History of English Literature (Essay) His comedies are romantic as well as witty. He also excelled in draining comic characters. His influence was wide spread, his comedies were popular even Shakespeare took suggestions from them. William Shakespeare ’s As You Like It is an admixture of prose and verse form which is followed after Lyly. The best and the most important of his eight plays are Campaspe, Endymion and The  Woman in the Moone.

Thomas Kyd (?1558-94): As the only exception among the University wits Kyd does not seem to belong to either of the two modesties.  As most celebrated work is his The Spanish Tragedie. His Spanish Tragedy is full of strong external actions. Cornelia is his other surviving translation dramatic work. Read More History of English Literature (Essay) Kyd has managed the stage-effects with artistic skill. The plot is well-constructed, the dialogues are forceful. The delineation of character by Kyd is subtle. If Marlowe was responsible for developing psycho-trauma type of tragedy, Thomas ked is responsible for celebrating revenge. Shakespeare was much indebted to Kyd while writing Hamlet, him masterpiece. 

George Peele (1558-98): Peele began his career as a courtier. He was a man of letters and refinement and a graceful poet. He had a clever vision of Literature as an art. Like Lyly, he had a taste for ornament and cared for fine language. Peele is less witty and more poetic than Lyly. Though Peele’s dramatic career was very short his work shows great variety. His plays include The Arraygnement of Paris, a kind of romantic comedy, The old Wife’s Tale, a satire etc.

Thomas Lodge (? 1558-1625): Lodge took to literature early. [He went to sea in 1591. He turned to medicine, became a Roman catholic, and died in 1625.]of his plays only two survive. Read More History of English Literature (Essay) His contribution to the English drama is almost negligible. His only play is The Woundes of Civile War. He probably collaborated with Shakespeare in Henry VI.

Robert Greene (1558-92): Greene’s contribution to English drama is remarkable in the field of characterization and plot-construction. Among his five plays Frier Bacon and Frier Bongay, The Scottish Historie of James the forth are notable.

Thomas Nash (1567-1601): Nash was the youngest of the University wits. He had the least genius of all the set but most inborn journalist. The dramatic work of Nash is of little significance. He finished Marlowe’s Dido, but his only surviving play is Summer’s Last Will and Testament.

Christopher Marlowe (1564-93): Marlowe is universally acknowledged as the best and the greatest of the University wits. It has rightly been said about him that Marlowe paved the way, Shakespeare perfected it. He was a man of fiery imagination and immense thought content. He is the personality of ill regulated powers, which led him a wild Bohemian life. His tragedies reflected his own image in dramatic format. Read More History of English Literature (Essay) Marlowe wrote four immortal tragedies-Tamburlaine The Great, Jew of Malta, Dr. Faustus and Edward ii. In Marlowe’s play the interest centers wholly on the personality of the tragic hero. The aesthetic pleasure which watching that personality struggling heroically against the heavy odds and miser mountable circumstance- that conflict was added to the conception of tragedy. Marlowe is by far the greatest among Shakespeare’s predecessors, and decidedly the greatest f University wits. 

The End Notes: The constellation of University wits made the Elizabethan drama more popular with Renaissance humanism and pride of patriotism. English drama for the first time in their hands recognized its potentialities and exuberance. Read More History of English Literature (Essay) They wrote classical plays, courtly comedies, farces, chronicle plays, melodramas etc. They gave thrill, action, sensation, hum our and music thus it is fair to say that the Elizabethan drama from the head of one man; it is rather an orderly though rapid development in which many planned on grand sealed. They are moved by some passion or the other. Tamburlaine has boundless passion for power; Dr Faustus has the infinite passion for knowledge.

Ref: 1. History of English Literature- Albert     
     2. The Concise Cambridge History of English Literature