Gascoigne, George

Gascoigne, George găskoinˈ [key], c.1539–1577, English author, a pioneer in various fields of English literature. A reckless, dissipated youth, he left Cambridge without a degree to study law, but he spent most of his time in debtors' prison and was never admitted to the bar. In spite of this, he served in Parliament from 1557 to 1559, and from 1572 to 1574 he served in the army of William of Orange. His “Certain Notes of Instruction” was the first English essay on prosody. It appeared in The Posies of George Gascoigne (1575), a revision of his earlier collected poems, A Hundred Sundry Flowers (1573). Gascoigne's Supposes, a translation of Ariosto's I suppositi, was the first English prose comedy, while his Jocasta, translated from an Italian version of Euripides' Phoenician Women, was the first Greek tragedy in English to be staged and one of the earliest English tragedies in blank verse. Both plays were performed at Gray's Inn in 1566. He also wrote The Steel Glass (1576), a nondramatic work in blank verse, noted as the first English satire.

See his complete works ed. by J. Cunliffe (1907–10, repr. 1969); F. E. Schelling (1893, repr. 1967) and R. C. Johnson (1972).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: English Literature, 1500 to 1799: Biographies