John Lyly was born in Kent in 1554. He was brought
up in Canterbury where he likely attended the King's School at the same
time as Marlowe. Lyly received the A.M. degree at Magdalen College, University of Oxford, in 1575. After failed petitions for support from Lord Burghley for a fellowship, Lyly removed to London.
He became instantly famous with the publication of
the prose romance Euphues, or the Anatomy of
Wit (1578) and its sequel Euphues
and His England (1580). Euphues is Greek for
elaborate prose style modelled on Lyly came to be called, was at the
height of popularity in the 1580s. Euphuistic style has two features:
sentence structure based on parallel figures from the ancient rhetorics
and a wealth of ornament including proverbs, incidents from history and
poetry, proverbs, and similes drawn from pseudoscience, from Pliny, from textbooks, or from the author's
style had a marked impact on contemporary writers, not the least on
Shakespeare. Polonius in Hamlet, Moth in Love's Labour's
Lost, and the repartees of Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado
About Nothing show signs of Lyly's influence.
In 1583, Lyly married Beatrice Browne, a Yorkshire
heiress. The same year he became in control of the first Blackfriars
He wrote several prose comedies for children's
companies, all geared towards the
courtly audience. These plays included Campaspe
(1584), Sapho and Phao (early 1580s), Endymion:
The Man in the Moon (1586-7), Love's
Metamorphosis (1589), Midas
(1589), and Mother Bombie
Lyly's only play in verse was the comedy The
Woman in the Moone (1594?).
Lyly's contribution to the Martin
Marprelate controversy, on the bishops' side, was 1589's Pap
with an Hatchet. Lyly served as an MP three times, the first of
which was for Hindon in Wiltshire, in 1589. Lyly spent most of the
remainder of his life at his wife's home in Mexborough, Yorkshire.
- The Norton Anthology of
English Literature, 6th ed. v1.
New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1993. 1003.
Cambridge Guide to Literature in English. Ian Ousby, Ed.
Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1998. 577.
Daniel, Carter A., ed., The
Plays of John Lyly (1988)
Lyly, John, The
Complete Works of John Lyly, 3 vols. (1902; repr. 1992)
Wilson, John Dover, John
Lyly (1905; repr. 1969).
cite this article:
Anniina. "The Life of John Lyly." Luminarium.
15 Apr 2004. [Date you accessed this article].
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