Title page of Greenes Groats-worth of Witte, STC 12245.
Internal evidence in the tracts, as well as the identity of Greene's dedicatees, suggests that Robert Greene was a pen-name of Oxfords from 1580 to 1592. In 1592, Oxford abandoned the pen-name, partly as a result of the Harvey/Nashe quarrel. In Greene's Groatsworth Of Wit, Robert Greene's imminent demise was announced, and Oxford's new pen-name, William Shakespeare, was introduced in the well known passage:
Yes, trust them not for there is an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his tigers heart wrapped in a players hide, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you, and being an absolute Johannes factotum, is in his own conceit the only Shake-scene in a country.
Disbelief that an embittered Robert Greene was the real author of Groatsworth has been expressed from the moment the tract was printed, as evidenced by the fact that Nashe defended himself against rumours that he was the author in an epistle to the second edition of Pierce Penilesse (1592):
Other news I am advertised of, that a scald trivial lying pamphlet called Greene's Groatsworth of Wit is given out to be of my doing. God never have care of my soul, but utterly renounce me, if the least word or syllable in it proceeded from my pen, or if I were any way privy to the writing or printing of it.
The next person to defend himself against the imputation that he was the author of Groatsworth was none other than Nashes old compositor (as he calls himself in Have With You To Saffron Walden), Henry Chettle, who, in Kind-Hearts Dream (1592) wrote:
About three months since died M. Robert Greene, leaving many papers in sundry booksellers' hands, among other his Groatsworth of Wit, in which a letter written to divers play-makers is offensively by one or two of them taken, and because on the dead they cannot be avenged, they wilfully forge in their conceits a living author, and after tossing it to and fro, no remedy but it must light on me.
Doubts about Robert Greenes authorship of Groatsworth have persisted to the present day.
WORKS WRITTEN BY OXFORD UNDER THE PEN-NAME 'ROBERT GREENE' AND WILLS OF DEDICATEES
Last will and testament of Sir Arthur Darcy,uncle of Dorothy Neville, first wife of Oxford's father; uncle of Oxford's friend, Sir Arthur Throckmorton; uncle of 'Lord Darcy of the North', the dedicatee of Mamillia; and uncle of Sir Nicholas Saunders, the dedicatee of Greene's Vision
Last will and testament, dated 11 October 1590, of Richard Burnaby, father of Thomas Burnaby, esquire, dedicatee of Greene's Never Too Late, Francesco's Fortunes, and A Quip for an Upstart Courtier, contributor of commendatory verses to Greene's Ciceronis Amor (1589), and at one time lessee of the Bear Garden in Southwark
Last will and testament, dated 10 July 1578, of Edward Sapcote, father-in-law of Thomas Burnaby, esquire, dedicatee of Greene's Never Too Late, Francesco's Fortunes, and A Quip for an Upstart Courtier, contributor of commendatory verses to Greene's Ciceronis Amor (1589), and at one time lessee of the Bear Garden in Southwark