The first of eight children, he was probably born in Canterbury , where his father was the Registrar for the Archbishop Matthew Parker and where the births of his siblings are recorded between and His grandfather was William Lily , the grammarian. He complains about a sentence of rustication apparently passed on him at some time, in his address to the gentlemen scholars of Oxford affixed to the second edition of the first part of Euphues , but nothing more is known about either its date or its cause. Wood said that Lyly never took kindly to the proper studies of the university.
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See Article History John Lyly, born ? As a playwright he also contributed to the development of prose dialogue in English comedy. Lyly was educated at Magdalen College, Oxford, and went to London about There he gained fame with the publication of two prose romances, Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit and Euphues and His England , which together made him the most fashionable English writer of the s. Euphues is a romantic intrigue told in letters interspersed with general discussions on such topics as religion, love, and epistolary style.
After Lyly devoted himself almost entirely to writing comedies. In he gained control of the first Blackfriars Theatre , in which his earliest plays, Campaspe and Sapho and Phao, were produced. All but one of these are in prose. The finest is considered to be Endimion , which some critics hold a masterpiece. Their plots are drawn from classical mythology and legend , and their characters engage in euphuistic speeches redolent of Renaissance pedantry; but the charm and wit of the dialogues and the light and skillful construction of the plots set standards that younger and more gifted dramatists could not ignore.
Get exclusive access to content from our First Edition with your subscription. He had hoped to succeed Edmund Tilney in the court post of Master of the Revels , but Tilney outlived him, and Lyly died a poor and bitter man.
This article was most recently revised and updated by J. Luebering , Executive Editorial Director. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:.
Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit