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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

§ 5. His models

Moreover, in his attitude toward love—his gallant trifling; his idealisation of women, which, with him, goes even to the point of making them mere wraiths; above all, in the curious effect produced by his figures as rather in love with being in love than moved by real human passion—he is Italianate and of the renascence. Moreover, his interest in “manners maketh man” shows the influence of Il Cortegiano and numberless other renascence discussions of courtly conduct.

Again, in his suspected allegorical treatment of incidents in the politics of the time, he, probably, does little more than develop the methods of political allegory current in the days of Henry VIII. Though the presumably large group of moralities which, in that reign, scourged conditions of the time, has, with the exception of Respublica and part of Albion Knight, disappeared, it is not difficult to believe that the allegory which we suspect in Endimion, Sapho and Phao and Midas glances at Lyly’s own time, even as political moralities had represented people and conditions in the reign of Elizabeth’s father. Here, again, Lyly is not a creator, but one who, in a new time and for a new audience, applies an old method to modified literary conditions. Trace Lyly back as you will, then, to his sources, he is, in material and style, in his attitude toward men, women, manners and love, thoroughly of the renascence; for, looking back to the classics, and stimulated by modern Italian thought, he expresses himself in a way that reproduces an intellectual mood of his day.