restricted access Scottish Histories: Robert Greene's James the Fourth (c. 1590) in the Light (and Shadow) of David Lyndsay's Ane Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis (1552)1


According to the bibliographical record, it seems unlikely that Robert Greene could have been familiar with David Lyndsay's midsixteenth century Ane Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis. Yet Greene composed, some forty years later, in The Scottish History of James the Fourth (c. 1590), a play which overlaps surprisingly with Lyndsay's in both form and content, beginning with a similar deployment of morality-play elements.

The common ground includes Greene's allusions to contemporary Scottish social and political problems. Indeed, the evocation by Greene of the triangular play of forces among Scotland, England and France might suggest a virtual rewriting of the Satyre in light of more recent events. The latter would obviously include the 1587 execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, but also the 'Raid of Ruthven' (1582) and the subsequent forced repatriation to France of Esmé Stuart (latterly Duke of Lennox), attacked as an arch-flatterer in Reformist polemical texts.

At the least, such updated 'Scottish history' emerges with new prominence and greater immediacy when Greene's drama is read alongside Lyndsay's. But the intertextual relation is sufficiently insistent to suggest that Greene may actually have had first-hand knowledge of the precursor text.