William Shakespeare the Upstart Crow

Picture of Greene's ' Groatsworth of Wit' pamphlet which attacks Shakespeare

The Biography of William Shakespeare

  • Shakespeare the 'Upstart Crow'
  • Robert Greene - the Groatsworth of Wit
  • Why was Shakespeare attacked by Greene?
  • How did Greene describe Shakespeare?
  • Why did Greene attack Shakespeare?
  • Interesting information about the life and times of
    William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare the ' Upstart Crow '

THE 'UPSTART CROW'

  • The first reference to Shakespeare as an actor / playwright was in 1592. He was attacked in a pamphlet, written by a a well-known poet and playwright called Robert Greene
  • Robert Greene was one of the university wits - a member of the of Cambridge/Oxford trained literary scholars of the era along with Christopher Marlowe and Sir Walter Raleigh
  • The pamphlet was called the 'Groatsworth of Wit' in which Robert Greene attacks the actor William Shakespeare as an "upstart crow"!
  • An Upstart is characteristic of someone who has risen economically or socially but lacks the social skills appropriate for this new position - To crow is to boast and a crow is a scavenger who steals from others - Greene clearly dislikes the 'Upstart Crow'!
  • This is what the pamphlet says:

"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 Factotum, is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrie."

  • Greene is saying that the 'Upstart Crow' was an actor (wrapt in a Player's hide) who now believes that he can write as well as the best scholars

  • That Shakespeare was an absolute Johannes Factotum (a Mr. Do-Everything a Jack of all Trades) with a 'Tyger's heart' ( an aggressive person)

  • Greene does not like actors "trust them not" because of their power - the actors controlled the theatres and acting companies and they paid just a one-off price for a play - the author received no more money, there were no Copyright Laws nor any Royalties

  • The 'University Set' were considered as being the only authors of any note with the ability to write poetry

  • William Shakespeare was not of the 'University Set'

  • Three months after the death of Robert Greene, in December 1592, his publisher and printer, Henry Chettle issued a public apology for the 'Groatsworth of Wit' and to the "Upstart Crow"!

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