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The art of dissembling in three Elizabethan writers: John Lyly, Robert Greene, and Shakespeare

By Ayako Kawanami


'Dissembling', derived from courtiers' practice of sprezzatura. has the rhetorical ability to present one ostensible meaning/intention while simultaneously harbouring another meaning/intention. In this thesis, I suggest that three Elizabethan, writers - Lyly, Greene, and Shakespeare have selected this deceptive act as a means to amplify their writing. Lyly exerts the art of dissembling with the intention of enriching his writing verbally. The art enables him to write fiction of love, while he presents his works as either didactic treatises or encomiastic writings. As far as Greene's art of dissembling is concerned, it is a class-conscious one. In his courtly love romances, Greene explores both strengths and weaknesses of women as a way of reflecting his interest in both of the two different social positions of courtiers and shepherds. In his social pamphlets where he depicts middle-class traders in the framework of the prodigal son story, Greene attempts to marry the uneducated with the learned. Greene's tries at theatrical devices with the intention of lifting the boundary between reality and illusion in his plays help Shakespeare to gain an insight into the attainment of dramatic moments in his plays. Shakespeare, by dint of his art of dissembling, takes to multiplying the dissembling of the courtly and the lowly, the elite and the non-elite, reality and illusion which Greene has achieved throughout his career. In Shakespeare's good hands, Greene's art of dissembling is enriched by a movement towards 'bafflement' in both poetic and dramatic terms.\ud An exploration of the way in which the art of dissembling is handed down from Lyly through Greene to Shakespeare encourages us to reconsider a connection between courtly culture and popular culture, the significance of Greene on the Elizabethan literary scene, a most neglected of the major Elizabethan writers, and the relationship of Shakespeare to Greene

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