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Phillips, John


Subject Literature » Renaissance Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405194495.2012.x


John Phillips (or Phillip) (d.1594/1617), has yet to make his presence felt in the canons of English Renaissance literary history, despite the range and volume of his work in print and manuscript – to say nothing of several lost works. For all this industry, Phillips has left little or no trace in the documentary archive, though he seems to have been a person of at least a little substance according to the information to be gleaned from his own works. Here we learn that Phillips's father was a member of the London Cloth workers’ company; that he studied at Queens’ College, Cambridge; and that he was a student in divinity. There is not a scrap of documentary evidence for any of these apparent ‘facts’; but a careful study of his work does produce a more or less consistent portrait of a reasonably well-educated and no doubt pious man, from a family in trade but probably with some connections with the gentry, and certainly one who wished to give the impression that he was on some kind of terms with the members not only of the aristocracy but also of the civic hierarchy of London. One can catch a glimpse of Phillips's fertile and inventive mind in a range of works that encompasses drama, epitaphs, and pamphlets. His early play Patient Grissel (1565) is the first in a line of Elizabethan treatments of the familiar but puzzling story of the trials and ultimate triumph of the long-suffering ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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