Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay

Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay

Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay

Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay

Excerpt

Friar Bacon was probably written in 1589, but because we lack definite evidence, its exact date must remain in doubt. Greene Alphonsus, generally considered his first play, was written shortly after Marlowe Tamburlaine, which dates from late 1587 or very early in the following year. Compared to Alphonsus, Friar Bacon is a more mature play in every respect, but how long before Greene's death (in September, 1592) it was written, is impossible to say. In July, 1588, he was incorporated Master of Arts at Oxford, and it is at least possible that about the time he received his degree, Greene decided to write a play about his new alma mater's great natural philosopher.

Several other relationships indicate a later, rather than an earlier date: (1) Former assumptions that Friar Bacon followed hard upon Marlowe Doctor Faustus, and that the latter was written about 1587, have been seriously questioned. If any indebtedness exists between the two playwrights, it is in fact much more likely that Marlowe, writing his play around 1592, actually borrowed here and there from Greene. (2) Between 1589 and 1591, in prefatory material to his Farewell to Folly, Greene wrote disparagingly of the anonymous author of Fair Em, a play whose theme partly resembles that of Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay; but even if we make the questionable assumption that Greene's attack was provoked by this resemblance, we have only proved that Friar Bacon dates earlier than 1591, since the relevant evidence admits of that late a date for Fair Em. (3) The general tone of patriotism in Greene's comedy may suggest a date after England's victory over the Spanish Armada, which was dispersed in July, 1588 -- the same month in which Greene received his Oxford M.A. -- but, although such a spirit would be unlikely in a work written in the uneasy days before the Armada, the play contains no allusion specific enough to be admitted as absolute evidence.

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