Lyly or Lilly, John (both: lĭlˈē) [key], 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 euphuism). 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).