Greene's Groats-Worth of Wit


This slim volume contains the first ever printed reference to Shakespeare and shows that by 1592 he was already envied by other playwrights. The book is alleged to be by the playwright Robert Greene, a graduate of both Oxford and Cambridge. It was supposedly written on his deathbed and includes public criticism of his various enemies, including Shakespeare, whom he calls ‘an absolute Johannes fac totum’ (or Jack-of-all-trades – a reference to the fact that Shakespeare was an actor as well as a playwright). The phrase ‘upstart crow, beautified with our feathers’ seems to be an accusation of plagiarism, and a criticism of Shakespeare as someone who had not attended university. The description of Shakespeare having a ‘Tygers hart wrapt in a Players hyde’ is a reference to a line from Henry VI, Part 3, where Margaret of Anjou (who also appears in Richard III) is addressed, ‘O tiger’s heart wrapp’d in a woman’s hide!’ (1.4.137).

Full title:
Greenes Groats-Worth of witte, bought with a million of Repentance. Describing the follie of youth, the falshood of make-shifte flatterers, the miserie of the negligent, and mischiefes of deceiuing Courtezans. Written before his death and published at his dyeing request. (To those Gentlemen his Quondam acquaintance, that spend their wits in making plaies, R. G. wisheth a better exercise, and wisdome to preuent his extremities.
Book / Octavo
Robert Greene
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library

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