Thursday, March 03, 2011

Connection #11 - William Shakespeare to Robert Greene

The passage in which "Robert Greene." warns his friends and fellow-poets against the ingratitude of the players runs as follows:—

"Yes, trust them not: for there is an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tygers heart wrapt in a Players hide, supposes he is as well able to bumbast out a blanke verse as the best of you: and being an absolute Johannes fac totum, is in his owne conceit the only Shake-scene in a countrie."

The allusion to Shakespeare's name is unequivocal, and the words about the tiger's heart point to the outburst, "Oh Tyger's hart wrapt in a serpents hide!" which is found in two places: first in the play called The True Tragedie of RicJtard Duke of Yorke, and the Death of the good King Henrie the Sixt, and then (with "womans" substituted for "serpents"), in the third part of King Henry VI., founded on the True Tragedie, and attributed to Shakespeare. It is preposterous to interpret this passage as an attack upon Shakespeare in his quality as an actor; Greene's words, be}rond all doubt, convey an accusation of literary dishonesty. Everything points to the belief that Greene and Marlowe had collaborated in the older play, and that the former saw with disgust the success achieved by Shakespeare's adaptation of their text.
But that Shakespeare was already highly respected, and that the attack aroused general indignation, is proved by the apology put forth in December 1592 by Henry Chettle, who had published Greene's pamphlet. In the preface to his Kind-hart's Dreanie he expressly deplores his indiscretion with regard to Shakespeare:
"I am as sory as if the originall fault had beene my fault, because my selfe haue seene his demeanor no lesse ciuill than he exelent in the qualitie he professes. Besides, diuers of worship haue reported his vprightnes of dealing, which argues his honesty, and his facetious grace in writing, that aprooues his Art."
 William Shakespeare: a critical study, Volume 1

To the detriment of his poetry , Jonson, as already intimated, made a great display of his knowledge of classic antiquity, and did so in a pedantic and affected manner; in his " Catiline" (act iv.) he has inserted a complete speech of Cicero's (337 lines); in his "Poetaster" (v. 1) a number of lines from the "JEneid" (iv. 160 ff.), and so on;3 and his "Masques" are almost smothered by learned notes, without which, however, they would be unintelligible both to men and gods. 
William Shakespeare: A literary biography  
By Karl Elze
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