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"!