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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IV. Prose and Poetry: Sir Thomas North to Michael Drayton.

VI. The Plays of the University Wits

§ 23. Characteristics of the group of University Wits

As a group, then, these contemporaries illustrate well the possible attitudes of an educated man of their time toward the drama. Midway between Lyly and his successful practice of the drama, which for the most cultivated men and women of his day, maintained and developed standards supplied to him, at least in part, by his university, and Thomas Lodge, who put the drama aside as beneath a cultivated man of manifold activities, stand Nashe, Peele and Greene. Nashe, feeling the attraction of a popular and financially alluring form, shows no special fitness for it, is never really at home in it and gives it relatively little attention. Peele, properly endowed for his best expression in another field, spends his strength in the drama because, at the time, it is the easiest source of revenue, and turns from the drama of the cultivated to the drama of the less cultivated or the uncultivated. Greene, from the first, is the facile, adaptive purveyor of wares to which he is helped by his university experience, but to which he gives a highly popular presentation. Through Nashe and Lodge, the drama gains nothing. Passing through the hands of Lyly, Greene and even Peele, it comes to Shakespeare something quite different from what it was before they wrote.

University-bred one and all, these five men were proud of their breeding. However severe from time to time might be their censures of their intellectual mother, they were always ready to take arms against the unwarranted assumption, as it seemed to them, of certain dramatists who lacked this university training, and to confuse them by the sallies of their wit. One and all, they demonstrated their right to the title bestowed upon them—“university wits.”