Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626) was a philosopher, scientist, and literary pioneer, as well as a political career surmounting in a banishment from his role as Lord Chancellor on counts of bribery. His masterpiece Essayes (first published 1597) solidifies his place among the top echelons of 17th Century authors.
There have been claims, albeit fanatical, that Francis Bacon was the true author of Shakespeare’s works, but it is almost certain that these claims are false.
Thomas Dekker (1572 – 1632) was an Elizabethan dramatist and pamphleteer. He collaborated with many prominent dramatists of the time, with a career spanning decades. Dekker’s most popular pamphlets were of the tricks and scams of confidence-men and thieves, including thieve’s can’t, The Belman of London, Villainies Discovered by Candlelight, and English Villianies.
John Donne (1572 – 1631) was a poet, satirist, lawyer, Protestant priest, and a pre-eminent representative of the metaphysical poets. Donne had an abundance of artistic flair, using metaphors, paradoxes, ironies, and dislocations. Despite his talent, he spent most of his years living in poverty, but was able to live with the aid of a number of wealthy friends. Over his life he wrote many poems, most only in manuscript form. A monument to John Donne, having survived the 1666 fire, still exists on display in St Paul’s Cathedral, London.
John Fletcher (1579 – 1625) was a Jacobean playwright and successor to William Shakespeare as house playwright for the King’s Men. During his time his fame rivaled that of Shakespeare himself, although this dwindled over time. He collaborated with Shakespeare on Henry VIII, The Two Noble Kinsmen, and the lost Cardenio.
John Ford (baptised 1586 – 1639) was a Jacobean dramatist, playwright, and poet.
Ben Jonson (c. 1572 – 1637) was a Renaissance dramatist, poet, and actor. Jonson had a prominent success in 1598 with Every Man in His Humour, of which Shakespeare was cast as an actor. It is said that Jonson was critical of Shakespeare’s work, and a rivalry was established between the two.
Thomas Kyd (1558 – 1594) was a dramatist, most famous for his work The Spanish Tragedy which was later drawn on by Shakespeare in his play Hamlet. Kyd’s play Ur-Hamlet also pre-dates Shakespeare’s Hamlet and has a number of similarities, so it is likely Shakespeare used it as a reference.
Christopher Marlowe (1564 – 1593) was a foremost dramatist and Elizabethan tragedian, said to have greatly influenced Shakespeare who was of the same age. There are many unknowns about Marlowe’s life, and it is surrounded by conspiracies and theories. During a period when he was under warrant for arrest for allegations of blasphemy and “vile heretical conceipts”, he was stabbed to death by Ingram Frizer, a confidence-trickster. There are allegations that Marlowe framed his own death to avoid the authorities, and continued to write under the name William Shakespeare.
Philip Massinger (1583 – 1640) was a dramatist who often used political and social themes. He is most prominently known for his well constructed plays A New Way to Pay Old Debts, The City Madam, and The Roman Actor. In the later stages of his career he wrote for the King’s Men.
Thomas Middleton (1580 – 1627) was a Jacobean poet and playwright. Along with Ben Jonson and John Fletcher he is one of the most prolific playwrights of the period. He wrote a variety of plays, both comedy and tragedy. He has been dubbed by the poet T. S. Eliot as second only to Shakespeare.
Thomas More (1478 – 1535) was more of a political figure than a dramatist, but his work History of King Richard III was said to greatly influence Shakespeare’s work Richard III. More coined the term “Utopia”, his idealistic view for the nation.
Thomas Nashe (1567 – 1601) was an Elizabethan pamphleteer, playwright, poet, and satirist. Despite his major works, he produced an erotic poem during the early 1590s entitled The Choice of Valentines. The poem speaks of a young man named Tomalin, who, on a visit to see his ‘girlfriend’ Frankie at her brothel, suffers impotence and premature ejaculation.
William Rowley (c.1585 – 1626) was a Jacobean dramatist, known more for his collaborations with more prominent writers than his own work. He would often play the role of a clown, or a fat clown as it is believed he was of hefty build. Of note he played the role of the Fat Bishop in Thomas Middleton’s A Game at Chess, and as Plumporridge in Inner Temple Masque. In addition to this he worked in collaboration with John Fletcher amongst others.
Rowley’s dramatist roots is believed to have begun in Queen Ann’s Men at the Red Bull Theatre, and later in life joined the King’s Men at the Globe.
William Shakespeare, need we say more.
James Shirley (or Sherley) (1596 – 1666) was a dramatist and poet. Most of his work was performed by Queen Henrietta’s Men where he served as house dramatist, and later his work was performed by the Kings Men.
Sir Philip Sidney was a poet, courtier and soldier, a prominent figure in the Elizabethan Age. His notable works include Astrophel and Stella, The Defence of Poetry, The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia, and an earlier and less notable work The Lady of May.
Sidney died at the age of 31 after suffering for 26 days from a gunshot wound in his thigh. It is said, while lying wounded, he offered his water bottle to another wounded soldier, to whom he said “Thy necessity is yet greater than mine.” This elevated his recognition as a noble gentleman.
Edmund Spenser (1552 – 1599) was a poet, most notably known for his epic poem The Faerie Queene. It is said the phrase without rhyme or reason stemmed from a quatrain Spenser sent to Queen Elizabeth.
John Webster (c. 1580 – c. 1634) was a Jacobean dramatist most famous for his plays The White Devil and The Duchess of Malfi. He was considered more of a serious playwright, unable to write comedy, and many of his plays were found to be too intellectual for the audiences liking. He tended towards a morbid, gothic view of the world. John Webster collaborated a great deal with Thomas Dekker, Thomas Middleton, and William Rowley, with plays being staged at the Red Bull Theatre. He was a contemporary of William Shakespeare.
Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503 – 1542) was an English lyrical poet, assigned by Henry VIII as Ambassador at home and abroad. Wyatt is credited in introducing the sonnet into English. It is rumoured that Wyatt had a love interest with Anne Boleyn, 2nd wife of Henry VIII, and Queen of England (1533 – 1536). The love interest was prior to Boleyn’s marriage to Henry VIII, between mid to late 1520s.