The themes George Gascoigne wrote about
George Gascoigne was an English poet, soldier, artist, and unsuccessful courtier. He is considered the most important poet of the early Elizabethan era, following Sir Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey and leading to the emergence of Philip Sidney. He was the first poet to deify Queen Elizabeth I, in effect establishing her cult as a virgin goddess married to her kingdom and subjects. His most noted works include A Discourse of the Adventures of Master FJ (1573), an account of courtly sexual intrigue and one of the earliest English prose fictions; The Supposes, (performed in 1566, printed in 1573), an early translation of Ariosto and the first comedy written in English prose, which was used by Shakespeare as a source for The Taming of the Shrew; the frequently anthologised short poem "Gascoignes wodmanship" (1573); and "Certayne Notes of Instruction concerning the making of verse or ryme in English" (1575), the first essay on English versification.
He was the eldest son of Sir John Gascoigne of Cardington, Bedfordshire and educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, and on leaving the university is supposed to have joined the Middle Temple. He became a member of Gray's Inn in 1555. He has been identified without much show of evidence with a lawyer named Gastone who was in prison in 1548 under very discreditable circumstances. There is no doubt that his escapades were notorious, and that he was imprisoned for debt. George Whetstone says that Sir John Gascoigne disinherited his son on account of his follies, but by his own account he was obliged to sell his patrimony to pay the debts contracted at court. He was M.P. for Bedford in 1557-1558 and 1558–1559, but when he presented himself in 1572 for election at Midhurst he was refused on the charges of being "a defamed person and noted for manslaughter," "a common Rymer and a deviser of slaunderous Pasquelles," "a notorious rufilanne," and a constantly indebted atheist.
His poems, with the exception of some commendatory verses, were not published before 1572, but they may have circulated in manuscript before that date. He tells us that his friends at Gray's Inn importuned him to write on Latin themes set by them, and there two of his plays were acted. He repaired his fortunes by marrying the wealthy widow of William Breton, thus becoming stepfather to the poet, Nicholas Breton. In 1568 an inquiry into the disposition of William Breton's property with a view to the protection of the children's rights was instituted before the Lord Mayor, but the matter was probably settled in a friendly manner, for Gascoigne continued to hold the Walthamstow estate, which he had from his wife, until his death.
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