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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume III. Renascence and Reformation.

XVI. Elizabethan Prose Fiction

§ 6. Lyly’s influence

Apart from its prose style, the Euphues of Lyly exercised considerable influence upon its author’s contemporaries. On Shakespeare, to mention only one, its effect is marked. Some of the dramatist’s characters, such as his pairs of friends, the sententious old man Polonius and the melancholy philosopher Jacques, recall Euphues in different ways. Verbal resemblances also exist: Shakespeare’s utterances on friendship, and his famous bee-passage, place his indebtedness beyond all doubt, even supposing his numerous similes drawn from actual or supposed natural history to be but drafts made upon the common possessions of the age.

Lyly’s success with Euphues was not slow in inspiring a number of followers, and, up to about 1584, works of the moraltreatise kind were constantly appearing. But their authors, as a rule, were painful imitators, who seemed incapable of original effort. Some affected his style, others worked “Euphues” into their title-page, while the majority wrote, as Lyly had claimed to write, for “the onely delight of the Courteous Gentlewoemen.” Anthony Munday’s Zelauto (1580) is the first of this school; it is a “delicate disputation … given for a friendly entertainment of Euphues,” in which Zelauto’s praise of England is in emulation of that of Euphues. In Barnabe Riche’s Don Simonides (1581) Philautus reappears and English manners, once again, form part of the topics discussed. Melbancke’s Philotimus (1583) is made up of philosophical discussions on “the warre betwixt nature and fortune,” and, in Warner’s Pan his Syrinx (1584), woman is under debate, and, as in Euphues, a “cooling carde” is drawn up against the sex.