It would hardly have escaped any David Mitchell fan’s attention that Upstart Crow was immediately re-commissioned for a third series just as the second one ended. But what a lot of people missed was the fact that a second Christmas Special has been commissioned for 2018! Read more about it here:
To celebrate this marvelous news my good twitter friend and historian, @Chasqui Penguin, has written another interesting facts article (although she stresses they are not completely proven facts) all about Will’s Upstart Crow nemesis, and just as likely real life nemesis, Robert Greene:
15 Likely Facts on the Tudor Writer
There are few certain details on Robert Greene’s birth, life and death. With records not readily available and the far-from-unusual name he had, it is difficult for historians to discover exact information on the Tudor writer but below are a few likely facts I have gathered together during my amateur researching. Any corrections or updates on these will be gratefully received and I apologise for any inaccuracies given below, which are inadvertent.
- Robert Greene is believed to have been born in Norwich, probably in 1558.
- In line with the above, his baptismal date is recorded as 11th July 1558.
- He is thought to have been the son of either a saddler or a cordwainer turned innkeeper, but either way it is believed he came from a family of tradesmen.
- Robert is believed to have been educated at Norwich Grammar School but no documents survive to confirm this.
- He is known to have attended St John’s College, at Cambridge University, from where he gained his BA in 1580 but was not among the top students, being listed as graduating 38th out of 41 in his college and 115th out of 205 at the university.
- He is known to have gained an MA in 1583 but it is unclear from which college or university as reports claim he moved to Clare College, Cambridge for this course (an unusual step as postgraduates generally remained at the same college for their second degree) and, even more unusually, moved to Oxford University.
- It is understood he married a lady called Dorothy by whom he had a son but, soon after the baby’s birth, he left them for the sister of a criminal who was hanged at Tyburn.
- By his mistress he is thought to have had a son called Fortunatus.
- On moving to London, Robert Greene was probably the first person ever to earn a living as a writer.
- He published more than 25 works in prose, some of which were probably pamphlets, for which he is well known, plus a number of plays including “Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay”, “The Scottish History of James IV”, “Alphonsus” and, possibly, “A Knack to Catch a Knave”.
- He is also being considered as a co-writer of Shakespeare’s “Titus Andronicus” and is said to have influenced the later writings of The Bard.
- He is most famous for his pamphlet “A Groats-worth of Witte, Bought with a Million of Repentance” which contained his supposed reference to Shakespeare, a then jobbing actor and aspiring writer, describing him as an “Upstart Crow”. This was published posthumously, and it is understood that this was Greene’s request.
- He also criticised other fellow writers: Marlowe, Peele and Nashe.
- Some of Greene’s writing seems to have been undertaken as an autobiography and he claimed to have travelled widely across Europe, though there is no evidence of this and the autobiographical claims may well have been exaggerated.
- He is thought to have died on 3rd September 1592 from “a surfeit of pickle herring and Rennish wine” and there is an unconfirmed report that he asked for a laurel wreath to be placed on his head as he died.
And as a bonus I’ve added what is believed to be the only picture we have of Greene. It’s a woodcut depicting him writing about Shakespeare from his shroud.