University Wits: The Dramatic Contribution of University wits

University Wits: The Dramatic Contribution of University Wits

  • What is University Wits? Describe the Dramatic contribution of the University Wits?

What is Universe Wits? 

The University Wits refer to a group of dramatists who were predecessors of Shakespeare in drama. They are called so because they belonged either to Oxford or Cambridge. Christopher Marlowe is the chief of the University Wits. The others are Robert Greene, and Thomas Nashe from Cambridge, and John Lyly, Thomas Lodge, and George Peele. 

The University Wits created the English national drama. They invest it with honour and glory. They are also responsible for the development of romantic drama which doesn’t care for the writers of time and space and action. They have raised the subject-matter of drama to a higher level. They also revolutionized nature of the tragedy. They also contributed to the art of characterisation. 

Dramatic Contribution of University Wits:


John Lyly :

Lyly wrote eight comedies. He wrote for private theatre. Lyly, first of all created genuine romantic atmosphere embedded with humour and fancy, for romantic comedy. He deftly assimilated realism, classicism and romanticism in his comedies. He skillfully used prose for expressing light feelings of fun and laughter. He also used Blank verse for comedy. He gave to British comedy a witty phraseology. Some of his comedies are- Sapho and Paho, Gallathea, The Man in the Moon, Midas, Mother Bombie etc. 

Thomas Kyd:

Kyd’s only play The Spanish Tragedy, a serecan tragedy, is a handwork in drama. It is a well-constructed play in which the dramatist has skillfully woven passion and fear. He introduced the revenge motif in tragedy. He thus influenced Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ and Websters ‘The Duchess of Malfi’. 

George Peele:

Peele’s work consists of The Arraignment of Paris, The Battle of Alcazar, The Famous Chronicle of Ring, Edward I, The Love of King David and Fair Bethsabbe and The Old Wives tale. His range is versatile. He has left  behind a pastoral a romantic tragedy, a chronicle history and a romantic satire. He juxtaposes reality and romance in his plays. As a humourist he influenced Shakespeare. 

Robert Greene:

Greene’s plays include the Comical History of Alphonsus, King of Aragon, The Scottish History of James IV. He was the first master of plot construction in British Drama. In his plays – Greene has three distinctive works mingled together – the world of magic, the world of artistic life and the world of the country. He is the first to draw romantic heroines. 

Christopher Marlowe :

As a dramatist  Marlowe surpassed all other University Wits and as a moralist is almost as great as Shakespeare. His memorable plays are- Tamburlaine the great, Edward the Second and Doctor Faustus. His other plays are The Jew of Malta, The Tragedy of Dido, Queen of Carthage and The Massacre of Paris. Marlowe for the first time presented the tragic conflict between good and evil forces in Doctor Faustus. He reveals for the first time the possibility  of psychological tragedy in English Drama. He was the first to use the device of memesis in an artistic manner in Doctor Faustus. 


Edward II is the first important historical pay. In it Marlowe actively handles the chronicle and in this respect he influenced Shakespeare’s Richard II. ‘The Jew of Malta’  foreshadows the world of Ben Johnson’s ‘Volpone’  and Shakespeare’s ‘Skylock’. Marlowe for the first time made blank verse a powerful vehicle for the expression of varied human emotions. Marlowe created authentic romantic tragedy and paved the way for the development of Shakespeare’s dramatic genius. 

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