An Upstart Crow

Introducing Shakespeare: A Graphic Guide - Nick Groom, Piero 2013

An Upstart Crow

Shakespeare (however you spelt it) was gaining attention and notoriety. As an aspiring professional writer, he was unusual in the 1590s for not having attended university. In later years this relative lack of education became mythologized and implied that Shakespeare was a natural, unfettered genius. But at the time, some of his fellow writers thought he was simply a charlatan. Robert Greene (1558-92) made an explicit if contorted attack on Shakespeare in his Groatsworth of Witte, published posthumously in 1592 …

"… there is an vpstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tygers hart wrapt in a Players hyde, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you: and beeing an absolute lohannes fac totum, is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrey.”


Greene suggests that Shakespeare is a vicious plagiarist and rural bumpkin (the “Tygers hart” line is from Henry VI Part Three, I.iv.138).