GEORGE PEELE, an English poet, who flourished in the reign of queen Elizabeth, was a native of Devonshire. He was first educated at Broadgate's Hall, but was some time afterwards made a student of Christ Church college, Oxford, about 1573, where, after going through all the several forms of logic and philosophy, and taking all the necessary steps, he was admitted to his master of arts degree in 1579. After this it appears that he removed to London, became the city poet, and had the ordering of the pageants. He lived on the Bank-side, over against Black-friars, and maintained the estimation in his poetical capacity which he had acquired at the university, which seems to have been of no inconsiderable rank. He was a good pastoral poet; and Wood informs us that his plays were no only often acted with great applause in his life-time, but did also endure reading, with due commendation, many years after his death. He speaks of him, however, as a more voluminous writer in that way than he appears to have been, mentioning his dramatic pieces by the distinction of tragedies and comedies, and has given us a list of those which he says he had seen; but in this he must have made some mistake, as be has divided the several incidents in one of them, namely, his "Edward I." in such manner as to make the "Life of Llewellin," and the "Sinking of Queen Eleanor," two detached and separate pieces of themselves; the error of which will be seen in the perusal of the whole title of this play. He moreover tells us, that the last-mentioned piece, together with a ballad on the same subject, was, in his time, usually sold by the common ballad-mongers. The real titles of the plays written by this author, of which five only are known, are, 1. "The Arraignment of Paris," 1584, 4to. 2. "Edward the First, 1593," 4to. 3. "King David and Fair Bethsabe," 1599, 4to. 4. "The Turkish Mahomet and Hyren the Fair Greek." 5. "The Old Wives Tale," a comedy, 1595, 4to.
Wood and Winstanley, misguided by former catalogues, have also attributed to him another tragedy, called "Alphonsus, emperor of Germany." But this, Langbaine assures us, was written by Chapman, he himself having the play in his possession, with that author's name to it. About 1593 Peele seems to have been taken into the patronage of the earl of Northumberland, to whom he dedicated in that year, "The Honour of the Garter, a poem gratulatorie, the Firstling, consecrated to his noble name." He was almost as famous for his tricks and merry pranks as Scoggan, Skelton, or Dick Tarleton; and as there are books of theirs in print, so there is one of his called "Merrie conceited Jests of George Peele, gent. sometime student in Oxford, wherein is shewed the course of his life, how he lived," &c. 1627, 4to. These jests, as they are called, might with more propriety be termed the tricks of a sharper. Peele died before 1698, of the consequences of his debaucheries. Oldys says he left behind him a wife end a daughter. He seems to have been a person of a very irregular life; and Mr. Steevens, with great probability, supposes, that the character of George Pieboard, in "The Puritan," was designed as a representative of George Peele. See a note on that comedy, as published by Mr. Malone.