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Greenes, groats-vvorth of witte, bought with a million of repentance.
1592

STC 12245, title page

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STC 12245, title page
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Title: Greenes, groats-vvorth of witte, bought with a million of repentance. Describing the follie of youth, the falshood of makeshifte flatterers, the miserie of the negligent, and mischiefes of deceiuing courtezans. Written before his death and published at his dyeing request.
DateLondon : imprinted [by J. Wolfe and J. Danter] for William Wright, 1592.
Repository: Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC, USA
Call number and opening: STC 12245, sig. F1v-F2r
View online bibliographic record

 

 

Item Title
Greenes, groats-vvorth of witte, bought with a million of repentance. Describing the follie of youth, the falshood of makeshifte flatterers, the miserie of the negligent, and mischiefes of deceiuing courtezans. Written before his death and published at...
Item Date
London : imprinted [by J. Wolfe and J. Danter] for William Wright, 1592.
Repository
Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC, USA
Call Number
STC 12245, title page

STC 12245, signatures F1 verso and F2 recto

View Image Assets
STC 12245, signatures F1 verso and F2 recto
Click image to enlarge

Institution Rights and Document Citation

Terms of use
Images that are under Folger copyright are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. This allows you to use our images without additional permission provided that you cite the Folger Shakespeare Library as the source and you license anything you create using the images under the same or equivalent license. For more information, including permissions beyond the scope of this license, see Permissions. The Folger waives permission fees for non-commercial publication by registered non-profits, including university presses, regardless of the license they use. For images copyrighted by an entity other than the Folger, please contact the copyright holder for permission information.

Copy-specific information
Title: Greenes, groats-vvorth of witte, bought with a million of repentance. Describing the follie of youth, the falshood of makeshifte flatterers, the miserie of the negligent, and mischiefes of deceiuing courtezans. Written before his death and published at his dyeing request.
DateLondon : imprinted [by J. Wolfe and J. Danter] for William Wright, 1592.
Repository: Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC, USA
Call number and opening: STC 12245, sig. F1v-F2r
View online bibliographic record

 

 

Item Title
Greenes, groats-vvorth of witte, bought with a million of repentance. Describing the follie of youth, the falshood of makeshifte flatterers, the miserie of the negligent, and mischiefes of deceiuing courtezans. Written before his death and published at...
Item Date
London : imprinted [by J. Wolfe and J. Danter] for William Wright, 1592.
Repository
Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC, USA
Call Number
STC 12245, sig. F1v-F2r

Institution Rights and Document Citation

Terms of use
Images that are under Folger copyright are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. This allows you to use our images without additional permission provided that you cite the Folger Shakespeare Library as the source and you license anything you create using the images under the same or equivalent license. For more information, including permissions beyond the scope of this license, see Permissions. The Folger waives permission fees for non-commercial publication by registered non-profits, including university presses, regardless of the license they use. For images copyrighted by an entity other than the Folger, please contact the copyright holder for permission information.

Copy-specific information
Title: Greenes, groats-vvorth of witte, bought with a million of repentance. Describing the follie of youth, the falshood of makeshifte flatterers, the miserie of the negligent, and mischiefes of deceiuing courtezans. Written before his death and published at his dyeing request.
DateLondon : imprinted [by J. Wolfe and J. Danter] for William Wright, 1592.
Repository: Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC, USA
Call number and opening: STC 12245, sig. F1v-F2r
View online bibliographic record

 

 

The earliest known allusion to Shakespeare as a playwright appears in Greenes, groats-worth of witte. Though the title page attributes the pamphlet to the recently deceased playwright Robert Greene, scholars agree that the author is more likely to have been either the playwright and printer of the work, Henry Chettle, or the playwright Thomas Nashe, or perhaps both. This copy is one of only two known surviving of the first edition, printed in 1592, the year it was entered into the Stationer’s Register. The other copy of the first edition is at the British Library (BL C.57.b.42).

Greenes, groats-worth, presented as having been authored by Robert Greene on his deathbed, begins as a tale of two brothers, Roberto and Lucanio. The tale follows the misfortunes of the brothers--Roberto, who tries to steal Lucanio's fortune and fails, and is left to make a living as a playwright, and Lucanio, who spends all his wealth on loose women and eventually becomes a pimp. Although Roberto is initially successful in writing plays, he squanders his wealth and is left dying with only a single "groat" (a coin worth four pence) to his name. The narrative shifts to first person, revealing that Roberto is Robert Greene, the supposed author. Robert repents his dissolute ways and sinful life and addresses a letter to three playwrights who bear strong resemblances to Thomas Nashe, Christopher Marlowe, and George Peele. "Greene" warns them  to stay away from actors who also write for the stage, especially the one he calls

an vp=start Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tygers hart wrapt in a Players hyde, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you: and beeing an absolute Iohannes fac totum is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrey.

A variety of clues makes it clear that this "Shake-scene" is a reference to William Shakespeare. In the early 1590s, Shakespeare had just begun to make a name for himself as a playwright, with works such as Henry VI and Comedy of Errors. Shakespeare’s mastery of blank verse, a style favored by university-educated playwrights such as Christopher Marlowe and George Peele, may have hit a nerve. “Tygers hart wrapt in a Players hyde," picked out as a quote in Roman type, is clearly a play on a line from Henry VI, Part 3, where the Duke of York exclaims of Margaret of Anjou, “O Tyger’s hart wrapt in a woman’s hide!” The allusion to York's speech makes it clear that Henry VI, Part 3 had been written before 1592 and that it was familiar to London audiences. "Iohannes fac totum" means “Johnny-do-all,” the base of the phrase “Jack of all trades,” referring to Shakespeare's inflated sense of himself. The passage ends with a pun on Shakespeare’s name, “Shake-scene.”

Henry Chettle and Thomas Nashe both publicly denied authorship of Greenes, Groats-worth. Chettle's denial appeared in the preface to a pamphlet he wrote titled Kind-hart’s Dream (1592) in which he noted that the letter in Greenes, Groats-worth addressed “to diuers play-makers" was "offensiuely by one or two of them taken.” He apologizes profusely to one of the playwrights, generally assumed to be Shakespeare, praising his demeanor and his acting skills and noting that he was supported by "diuers of worship" who praise his honesty and his polished writing. This suggests to scholars that Shakespeare, by 1592, already had supporters who rushed to his defense in the face of the rather vicious attack. Nashe's denial appears in the preface to the second edition of his Pierce Penniless (1592), where he writes that he had nothing to do with this "trivial lying pamphlet":

Other newes I am aduertised of, that a scal'd triuiall lying Pamphlet, called Greens groats-worth of wit is giuen out to be of my doing. God neuer haue care of my soule, but vtterly renounce me, if the least word or syllable in it proceeded from my penne, or if I were any way priuie to the writing or printing of it. (sig. ¶2v)

Henry Clay Folger purchased the Folger Shakespeare Library's copy of Greenes, Groats-worth on February 3, 1928 through one of his agents, A.S.W. Rosenbach. The former owner, William Augustus White, was a prolific collector of Shakespeareana: Mr. Folger purchased Greenes, Groats-worth along with nineteen of White’s other rare early modern works for the sum of $122,500 (approximately $1.7 million today). White acquired the pamphlet in 1886 from the sale of the library of Sir John Fenn and his descendant, John Tudor Frere, where it had remained in the family since 1785.

Semi-diplomatic transcription

 

[F1v]

Sweet boy, might I aduise thee, be aduisde, and get not
many enemies by bitter wordes : inueigh against vaine
men, for thou canst do it, no man better, no man so well :
thou hast a libertie to reprooue all, and name none; for
one being spoken to, all are offended; none being blamed
no man is iniured. Stop shallow water still running, it
will rage, or tread on a worme and it will turne : then
blame not Schollers vered with sharpe lines, if they re=
proue thy too much liberty of reproofe.
And thou no lesse deseruing than the other two, in
some things rarer, in nothing inferiour ; driuen (as myselfe)
to extreme shifts,a litle haue I to say to thee: and
were it not an idolatrous oth, I would sweare by sweet
S. George, thou art vnworthy better hap, sith thou de=
pendest on so meane a stay. Base minded men all three
of you, if by my miserie you be not warnd: for vnto none
of you (like mee) sought those burres to cleaue : those
Puppets (I meane) that spake from our mouths, those
Anticks garnisht in our colours. Is it not strange, that
I, to whom they all haue beene beholding: is it not like
that you, to whome they all haue beene beholding, shall
(were yee in that case as I am now) bee both at once of
them forsaken : Yes trust them not : for there is an vp=
start Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his
Tygers hart wrapt in a Players hyde, supposes he is as
well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the best of
you : and beeing an absolute Iohannes fac totum, is in
his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrey.
O that I might intreat your rare wits to be imploied in
more profitable courses : & let those Apes imitate your
past excellence, and neuer more acquaint them with
your admired inuentions. I knowe the best husband of
you

 

[F2r]

 

you all will neuer proue an Usurer, and the kindest of 

them all will neuer proue a kind nurse : yet whilest you
may, seeke you better Maisters; for it is pittie men of
such rare wits, should be subiect to the pleasure of such
rude groomes.
In this I might insert two more, that both haue
writ against these buckram Gentlemen : but lette their
owne workes serue to witnesse against their owne wic=
kednesse, if they perseuere to maintaine any more such
peasants. For other new-commers, I leaue them to the
mercie of these painted monsters, who (I doubt not)
will driue the best minded to despise them : for the rest,
it skils not though they make a ieast at them.
But now returne I againe to you three, knowing
my miserie is to you no newes : and let mee hartily in=
treat you to be warned by my harms. Delight not (as I
haue done) in irreligious oathes ; for from the blasph=
mers house, a curse shall not depart. Despise drunken=
nes which wasteth the wit, and maketh men all equall
vnto beasts. Flie lust, as the deathsman of the soule, and
defile not the Temple of the holy Ghost. Abhorre those
Epicures, whose loose life hath made religion lothsome
to your eares : and when they sooth you with tearms of
Maistership, remember Robert Greene, whome they
haue often so flattered, perishes now for want of com=
fort. Remember Gentlemen, your liues are like so ma=
ny lighted Tapers, that are with care deliuered to all
of you to maintaine : these with wind-puft wrath may
be extinguisht, which drunkennes put out, which negli=
gence let fall : for mans time is not of it selfe to short,
but is more shortned by sinne. The fire of my light is
now at the last snuffe, and for want of wherewith to su
=staine

Print sources consulted

Katherine Duncan-Jones, Shakespeare: An Ungentle Life (London: Methuen Drama, 2010).

J.O. Halliwell-Phillipps, “To Book Sellers and Others,” Notes and Queries 5, no.3 (1875), 260.

John Jowett, Shakespeare and Text (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 7.

David Scott Kastan, A Companion to Shakespeare (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000), 439.

Lois Potter, The Life of William Shakespeare: a Critical Biography (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), 86-105.

Seymour de Ricci, English Collectors of Books and Manuscripts 1530-1930 and their Marks of Ownership (Indiana University Press: Bloomington, IN, 1960), 69. 

William Augustus White, Catalogue of Early English Books, chiefly of the Elizabethan Period. Collected by William Augustus White and catalogued by Henrietta C. Bartlett (New York: Pynson Printers Inc., 1926).
 

Manuscript sources consulted 

Henry Clay Folger and A.S.W. Rosenbach--correspondence, 1927-1928. Folger Shakespeare Library Acquisition Archives, case file 361.
 

View edition record in the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC)

Last updated May 15, 2017