1837 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Greene

Henry Hallam, in Introduction to the Literature of Europe of the Fifteenth, Sixteenth, and Seventeenth Centuries (1837-39; 1882) 2:267-68.



A third writer for the stage in this period is Robert Greene, whose Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay may probably be placed about the year 1590. This comedy, though savoring a little of the old school, contains easy and spirited versification, superior to Peele, and, though not so energetic as that of Marlowe, reminding us perhaps more frequently of Shakspeare. Greene succeeds pretty well in that florid and gay style, a little redundant in images, which Shakspeare frequently gives to his princes and courtiers, and which renders some unimpassioned scenes in his historic plays effective and brilliant. There is great talent shown, though upon a very strange canvas, in Greene's Looking Glass for London and England. His angry allusion to Shakspeare's plagiarism is best explained by supposing that he was himself concerned in the two old plays which had been converted into the second and third parts of Henry VI. In default of a more probable claimant, I have sometimes been inclined to assign the first part of Henry VI. to Greene. But those who are far more conversant with the style of our dramatists do not suggest this; and we are evidently ignorant of many names, which might have ranked not discreditably by the side of these tragedians. The first part, however, of Henry VI. is, in some passages, not unworthy of Shakspeare's earlier days, nor, in my judgment, unlike his style; nor in fact do I know any one of his contemporaries who could have written the scene in the Temple Garden. The light touches of his pencil have ever been still more inimitable, if possible, than its more elaborate strokes.