Internet Shakespeare Editions


John Lyly as dramatist

John Lyly's plays, written for child actors, and for the select audience at Elizabeth's Court, retain some of the same artifice of his elaborate prose works.

The strong point of Lyly's plays is that they are written in witty prose, and are elegantly constructed. Lyly builds his comedies around a central debate, rather in the fashion of The Courtier. Endimion, probably his best known play, debates the nature of love in a fashion very similar to Shakespeare in Love's Labour's Lost.

Like Peele, Lyly tended to write plays with more than one level of the plot, so that the minor characters -- borrowed from the cheeky servants of Roman comedy -- parody the actions of those in the main plot. This is a tradition that goes back to some of the earliest plays that survive: notably the interlude Fulgens and Lucrece.

Shakespeare and Lyly

Falstaff parodies Lyly's euphuistic language in Henry the Fourth, Part One when he acts the part of Hal's father:

Harry, I do not only marvel where thou spendest thy time, but also how thou art accompanied. For though the camomile, the more it is trodden on, the faster it grows, so youth, the more it is wasted, the sooner it wears.
(2. 4. 403-7)

The complete on line text of Gallathea.