PEELS, GEORGE (1558?-1597?), English dramatist, was born in London. His father, who appears to have belonged to a Devonshire family, was clerk of Christ's Hospital, and wrote two treatises on book-keeping. George Peele was educated at Christ's Hospital, and entered Broadgates Hall (Pembroke College), Ox ford, in 1571. In 1574 he removed to Christ Church, taking his B.A. degree in 1577, and proceeding M.A. in 1579. In 1579 the governors of Christ's Hospital requested their clerk to "discharge his house of his son, George Peele." He went up to London about 1580, but in 1583 when Albertus Alasco (Albert Laski), a Polish nobleman, was entertained at Christ Church, Oxford, Peele was entrusted with the arrangement of two Latin plays by William Gager (fl. 1580-1619) presented on the occasion. He was also complimented by Dr. Gager for an English verse translation of one of the 1phigenias of Euripides. In 1585 he was employed to write the Device of the Pageant borne before W oolston Dixie, and in 1591 he devised the pageant in honour of another lord mayor, Sir William Webbe. This was the Descensus Astraeae (printed in the Harleian Miscellany, 1808), in which Queen Elizabeth is honoured as Astraea. Peele had married as early as 1583 a lady who brought him some property, which he speedily dissipated. The sorry traditions of his reckless life were emphasized by the use of his name in connection with the apocryphal Merrie con ceited Jests of George Peele (printed in 1607). Many of the stories had done service before, but there are personal touches that may be biographical. He died before 1598, for Francis Meres, writing in that year, speaks of his death in his Palladis Tamia.
His pastoral comedy of The Araygnement of Paris, presented by the Children of the Chapel Royal before Queen Elizabeth perhaps as early as 1581, was printed anonymously in Charles Lamb, sending to Vincent Novello a song from this piece of Peele's, said that if it had been less uneven in execution Fletcher's Faithful Shepherdess "had been but a second name in this sort of writing." Peele's other reputed works are The Famous
Chronicle of King Edward the first (printed 1593) ; The Battell of Alcazar—with the death of Captaine Stukeley (acted 1588 1589, printed [anon.] 1594) ; The Old Wives Tale (printed 1595), a play within a play, with a background of rustic folk-lore; and The Love of King David and fair Bethsabe (written c. 1588, printed 1599) ; Sir Clyomon and Sir Clamydes (printed 1599) has been attributed to Peele, but on insufficient grounds. Among his occasional poems are "The Honour of the Garter" and "Poly hymnia" (1590). To the Phoenix Nest in 1593 he contributed "The Praise of Chastity." Mr. F. G. Fleay, (Biog. Chron. of the Drama) credits Peele with The Wisdom of Doctor Doddipoll (printed 1600), Wily Beguiled (printed 1606), The Life and Death of Jack Straw, a notable rebel (1587?), a share in the First and Second Parts of Henry VI., and on the authority of Wood and Winstanley, Alphonsus, Emperor of Germany.
Peele belonged to the group of university scholars who, in Greene's phrase, "spent their wits in making playes." Greene went on to say that he was "in some things rarer, in nothing inferior," to Marlowe. This praise was not unfounded. The credit given to Greene and Marlowe for the increased dignity of English dramatic diction, and for the new smoothness infused into blank verse, must certainly be shared by Peele.