Robert Greene : Prominent Renaissance Writer of Novel, Prose and Drama

The domination of poetry was supreme in the Elizabethan period. Simple, lucid rational, restrained, matter of fact, unimaginative prose was not the order of the day. The prose of the early writers like Lyly and Sir Philip Sidney influenced the later writers and a sort of Arcadianism and Euphuism came into being. In short it was a sort of poetic that had its say subsequently. Robert Greene (1560 – 92), a disciple of Lyly, wrote more pleasingly than some of his contemporaries. Educated at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, Greene was a prolific and popular prose writer.

The ordinary Life of England does not come much into Elizabethan prose. However, in Robert Greene , picaresque narratives show something of the English heroes (!) in action. His prose romance, Marmillia (1533) written in imitation of Euphues, by John Lyly warns the young against the distraction of the so called pure love which might reduce them to lust. His other works include The Myrrour of Modestie (1584); Perimedes the Blacke-Smith (1588) an imitation from Boccaccio, Menaphon (1589) and Pandosto, the Triumph of Time (1588). Greene’s style and morals are after Eupheus while his romantic theme follows Sidney’s Arcadia. Greene's best productions are the lyrics interspersed through his works, which show a fine ear for verse and a delight in beauty and innocence strange to find in a man of his character. One of his tales," Dorastus and Fawnia or Pandosto is indubitable romantic as it supplies the plot for Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. He wrote many pamphlets, including a series on the London underworld. The autobiographical Greene's Groatsworth of Wit Bought with a Million of Repentance, which has an alleged allusion to Shakespeare as an “upstart crow,” and The Repentance of Robert Greene, Master of Arts were written in 1592.

Robert Greene
Menaphon is a novel in Arcadian setting with poetic passages and graceful songs. We find here the purity and serenity of Bohemian imagination. The conventional opening, the scene of the shipwreck in which a woman and her infant son are cast upon the shore and her hushing him with a lovely cradled song, is really touching. Though the stories are fantastic there is an element of true feeling in them. In his series of short stories under the name The Conny – Catching Tracts (1591 – 92), Greene turns to his advantage, his contact with every kind of ruffian, rogue, thief, rascal and loose woman. He paints the underworld of London so that the reader may come to know of the bags of tricks employed by such people to defraud the unwary and the gullible. In the enumeration of all these detail he is simple and direct, leading the road to Daniel Defoe.

On the other hand, 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.

Ref:  1.
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