Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Connection #12 - Robert Greene to Ludovico Ariosto

Robert Greene was baptized in Norwich1 on July 11, 1558.2 He died in London, September 3, 1592. Of the life that extended between these dates there is little of actual record. On November 26, 1575, Greene was matriculated as a sizar at St. John's Cambridge. From that college he received his primary degree in 1578.3 In 1583, July 7, he was at Clare Hall,4 where he was granted the degree of Master of Arts. Sometime in 1585 or '86 he was married. Oxford conferred a degree in July, 1588; so that he was henceforth the Academiae Utriusque Magister in Artibus of which he was so vain.

"Hee inherited more vertues than vices," says Nashe again. "Debt and deadly sinne, who is not subject to? with any notorious crime I never knew him tainted." ... "A good fellowe he was;" considerable of a drinker. "Hee made no account of winning credite by his workes, ... his
only care was to have a spel in his purse to conjure up a good cuppe of wine with at all times." . . . "Why should art answer for the infirmities of maners? Hee had his faultes, and thou thy follyes."
The young Bohemians lived hard in those days. And they died hard. Greene was only thirty-four when he went to that "fatall banquet of Rhenish wine and pickled hearing (if thou wilt needs have it so)."8 All through the month of August Greene was ill, at first taking no alarm. He got his Blacke Bookes Messenger ready for the press, and told his plans for the Blacke Booke itself.9 Then gradually, as the days wore on, he came to realize that he could never be well. He was greatly troubled in his mind. If he could only pray, he would be happy. But there was a voice ringing in his ears, "Robin Greene, thou art damned." He tried to find comfort in the hope of God's mercy, and be pacified. But the battle went on. Sometimes he hoped, sometimes he feared. "There was one theef saved and no more, therefore presume not; and there was one saved, and therefore despair not." 

Greene's plays include The Scottish History of James IV, Alphonsus, and his greatest popular success, Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay (c. 1589), as well as Orlando Furioso, based on Ludovico Ariosto's epic poem. He may also have had a hand in numerous other plays, and may have written a second part to Friar Bacon, (which may survive as John of Bordeaux).
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