GREENE, Robert, English writer: b. Nor wich, 1558?; d. London, 3 Sept. 1592. The greater part of his career is conjectured from his more or less autobiographical novels and pamphlets. He entered Saint John's College, Cambridge, in 1575, and took his B.A. in 1578.
Already in his college years, perhaps earlier, he had entered heartily into the dissipation for which he was notorious, though perhaps his own record of himself and that left by his enemy Gabriel Harvey, may both be exagger ated. Upon leaving college he seems to have traveled extensively abroad, learning, from his own account, far more evil than good. Shortly after his return to England he heard a sermon in Saint Andrew's church, Norwich, which strongly moved him to repentance, but he soon recovered his usual recklessness. The incident, however true, is characteristic of him; his ex cesses alternated with highly emotional con fessions of penitence, which were probably quite sincere. The original fineness of his spirit was little harmed by his wild courses; his writing throughout is remarkably pure-minded. In 1580 'Maniaha," his first novel, was registered; it was published three years later. It seems that he was then studying medicine at Cam bridge, where he took his M.A. in 1583. Within two years afterward he married a woman of good family. After their one child was born, Greene deserted her and gave him self up to a wild life in London. It has been pointed out that the character of the patient, deserted wife recurs through his writings, as though the woman he had wronged was always in his mind.
Greene's first occupation in London was the writing of prose romances, varying between the type of Sidney's
and Lyly's (Euphues.) His success in this kind of writing was immediate. He had a better narrative faculty than either Sidney or Lyly, and in addition to an unusual facility in composition he had something of the journalist's skill in finding the interest of the moment. Before 1590 he had written 'Penelope's Web,) (Euphues, his Censure to Philautus,>
'Greene's Metamorphosis,' (Perimedes the Blacksmith,'
had also made many good friends. Nash he had known before; now he met Lodge and probably Marlowe. But at the same time he was living a strangely profligate life, among thieves and outcasts, his special comrade being their chief, Ball, who ended his career at Ty burn. Ball's sister was Greene's mistress, the mother of his son Fortunatus.
In 1590 appeared
Cobbler of Canter bury,' a collection of six coarse tales, ascribed to Greene. Greene repudiated the book in a pamphlet,
Apology,' announcing his intention to write no more such romances as might make him seem the likely author of
In a satire on the social evils of the times, (A Quip for an Upstart Courtier) (1592), Greene took occasion to insult Gabriel Harvey and his two brothers, one of whom, Richard, in a pamphlet on the Martin Marprelate Con troversy, had spoken harshly of Greene and his friends. The wrath of the Harveys was turned upon Greene, and pursued him even after his death, in Gabriel Harvey's
The first play of Greene's, according to the most recent scholarship, was
about 1591, an imitation a Marlowe's (Tarnburlaine' ; the second was probably the