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).

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.
References in periodicals archive ?
John Lyly, however, is an important but overlooked writer whose work helped Toole make the transition from the condemnation and condescension that mark his juvenile effort, The Neon Bible, to the celebration and satire that memorialize A Confederacy of Dunces.
Bradbrook's The Growth and Structure of Elizabethan Comedy, Albert Feuillerat's John Lyly, William Ringler's "The Immediate Source of Euphuism," and Virgil K.
4) See David Bevington, Tudor Drama and Politics: A Critical Approach to Topical Meaning (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1968); Nona Fienberg, Elizabeth, Her Poets, and the Creation of the Courtly Manner: A Study of Sir John Harington, Sir Philip Sidney, and John Lyly (New York and London: Garland, 1988); and Philippa Berry, Of Chastity and Power: Elizabethan Literature and the Unmarried Queen (London and New York: Routledge, 1989).
8) From a 1605 letter by Toby Matthew, quoted in Hunter, John Lyly, 88.
The career of John Lyly is, in fact, both more mysterious and more
Kent Cartwright, "The Confusions of Gallathea: John Lyly as Popular Dramatist," Comparative Drama 32.
David Bevington, "Introduction to Sappho and Phao," in John Lyly, Campaspe & Sappho and Phao, ed.
Although this chapter focuses specifically upon John Lyly, therefore, it engages with a wide range of issues.
Hadfield singles out the drama of William Shakespeare and the poetry of Edmund Spenser for special consideration in his book, "both of whom were acutely aware of the British context of English literature" (9); but he also examines the writings of John Bale, Thomas Harriot, Michael Drayton, John Lyly, George Buchanan, Richard Beacon, and others.
They challenge us to reconsider our assumptions and perceptions about professional acting companies, theatrical conditions at the court and in the universities, the relationship between major playwrights like John Lyly and their patrons (both noble and public), and the career of the popular playwright in the 1580s and after.
A similar argument has recently been advanced by Kristen Poole, who links Falstaff with the anti-Puritan caricatures of satires penned in the 1580s by John Lyly, Robert Greene, and Thomas Nashe.
Through no fault of the editors, some very important individuals are unfortunately not represented here at all; for example, Richard Edwards, Lawrence Dutton, John Lyly, and Anthony Munday.