John Lyly

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Lyly or Lilly, John

(both: lĭl`ē), 1554?–1606, English dramatist and prose writer. An accomplished courtier, he also served as a member of Parliament from 1589 to 1601. His Euphues, published in two parts (The Anatomy of Wit, 1578, and Euphues and His England, 1580), was an early example of the novel of manners and was one of the most influential works of its time. In it Lyly tried to establish an ideal of perfected prose style, which was actually convoluted and artificial (see euphuismeuphuism
, in English literature, a highly elaborate and artificial style that derived from the Euphues (1578) of John Lyly and that flourished in England in the 1580s.
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). His early plays, the most notable being Campaspe (1584) and Endimion (1591), followed Euphues in their elaborate style, but his later work, specifically Mother Bombie (1594), employed the realistic, robust manner of Roman comedy. His Woman in the Moon (1594?) was a a successful experiment in blank verse. Shakespeare and other Elizabethan playwrights were indebted to him for his innovation of prose as the vehicle for comic dialogue and for his development of the romantic comedy.


See his complete works edited by R. W. Bond (new ed. 1967); studies by G. K. Hunter (1962 and 1968) and P. Saccio (1970).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Lyly, John


Born in 1553 or 1554, in the county of Kent; died Nov. 27, 1606, in London. English writer. Son of a notary.

Lyly studied at Oxford and Cambridge. In his novels Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit (1579) and Euphues and His England (1580), Lyly created a literary style rich in rhetorical elements, tropes, and forms taken from ancient mythology or from Pliny’s Natural History. While the euphuistic style influenced Lyly’s contemporaries, including Shakespeare, its mannerism soon made it the object of parody. In such plays as Alexander and Campaspe (1584), Sapho and Phao (1584), and Galatea (1588; published anonymously in 1592), Lyly used motifs from Italian pastorales, transforming farcical clowns into servants, sailors, and woodsmen. Lyly was a direct predecessor of Shakespeare in high comedy.


The Complete Works, vols. 1–3. Edited by R. W. Bond. Oxford, 1902. In Russian translation: [“Iz ‘Evfuesa.’ “] Khrestomatiia po zapadno-evropeiskoi literature: Epokha Vozrozhdeniia. Moscow, 1947. Page 476.


Anikst, A. A. “Angliiskii teatr.” In Istoriia zapadno-evropeiskogo teatra, vol. 1. Moscow, 1956. Page 406.
Hunter, G. R. John Lyly: The Humanist as Courtier. Cambridge, Mass., 1962.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
In his commentary on vv.99-143, R A Foakes (1962:55) draws attention to a comparable passage in The two gentlemen of Verona (III.i.293ff.), where the qualities of Launce's mistress are catalogued, and then speculates that both Shakespearean passages are probably indebted to Midas (I.ii.19ff.) by John Lyly (1554-1606), where Licio unfolds 'every wrinkle of my mistress's disposition' in comic vein (Foakes 1962:55).
Barbara Fennell and John Bennett have analyzed this bifurcation from a sociolinguistic perspective, pointing out that Ignatius fails to navigate his diverse and exotic locale successfully because he does not recognize that discrete speech communities interact using different "codes" and "channels." Euphues is a didactic discourse on the dangers of romantic love but the Euphuistic style gets its name from the elevated and Latinate poetic diction attributed to John Lyly. Greek for "of good natural parts, graceful, witty," Lyly probably got the term from Roger Ascham's The Scholemaster (1570), an appropriate literary heritage for Ignatius Reilly, whose name evokes the patron saint of education.
(1) Christopher Wixson offers a concise survey of the critical literature in "Cross-Dressing and John Lyly's Gallathea."
John Lyly's Saphho and Phao opens at the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford on Thursday for a four-date run.
(VI 776-85) Here is Myrrha debating with herself her criminally incestuous passion for her father, displaying what George Hunter, writing about John Lyly, calls "the rhetoric of the divided mind" (qtd.
The chapter touches on Shakespeare's Joan of Arc, Queen Elizabeth, and John Lyly's Gallathea (1592) as exemplifying those "queer virgins ...
In the final section, the 'Professional Theatre', it examines professional theatrical companies and leading figures such as James Burbage, John Lyly, Kyd, Marlowe, Green and Peele and popular plays produced between 1580 and 1595.
Though the book is a monograph, the words 'The plays of John Lyly. .
(7) If Sidney implicitly criticizes John Lyly, Hoskins is more direct in remarking that Lyly, 'seeing the dotage of the time upon this small ornament, invented varieties of it; for he disposed the agnominations' (another word for paronomasia) 'in as many fashions as repetitions are distinguished.
Critics have often commented on the way in which John Lyly raids the classics for material in his first play Campaspe (1584).(1) But it has not been noticed that at one point Lyly also turns to the less august tradition of the popularjest-book as well.
This type of Elizabethan schematization most memorably appears in the plays of John Lyly. "It is a characteristic of [Lyly's] plays," Michael Best argues, "that there is an almost complete lack of action and that the basic situation remains virtually unchanged throughout" (75).
The legend of Alexander inspired writers down through the ages, from Plutarch (who wrote of him in Parallel Lives) and Ferdowsi (in the Shah-nameh) to John Lyly, Pedro Calderon de la Barca, Jean Racine, Jakob Wassermann, and many others.