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GEORGE WHETSTONE (1544?-1587?)

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Originally appearing in Volume V28, Page 587 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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GEORGE WHETSTONE (1544?-1587?), English dramatist and author, was the third son of Robert Whetstone (d. 1557). A member of a wealthy family that owned the manor of Walcot at Bernack, near Stamford, he appears to have inherited a small patrimony which he speedily dissipated, and he complains bitterly of the failure of a lawsuit to recover an inheritance of which he had been unjustly deprived. In 1572 he joined an English regiment on active service in the Low Countries, where he met George Gascoigne and Thomas Churchyard. Gascoigne was his guest near Stamford when he died in 1577, and Whetstone commemorated his friend in a long elegy. His first volume, the Rocke of Regarde (1576), consisted of tales in prose and verse adapted from the Italian, and in 1578 he published The right excellent and famous Historye of Promos and Cassandra, a play in two parts, drawn from the eighty-fifth novel of Giraldi Cinthio's Hecatomithi. To this he wrote an interesting preface addressed to William Fleetwood, recorder of London, with whom he claimed kinship, in which he criticizes the contemporary drama. In 1582 he published his Heptameron of Civill Discourses, a collection of tales which includes The Rare Historie of Promos and Cassandra. From this prose version apparently Shakespeare drew the plot of Measure for Measure, though he was doubtless familiar with the story in its earlier dramatic form. Whetstone accompanied Sir Humphrey Gilbert on his expedition in 1578-1579, and the next year found him in Italy. The Puritan spirit was now abroad in England, and Whetstone followed its dictates in his prose tract A Mirour for Magestrates (1584), which in a second edition was called A Touchstone for the Time. Whetstone did not abuse the stage as some Puritan writers did, but he objected to the performance of plays on Sundays. In 1585 he returned to the army in Holland, and he was present at the battle of Zutphen. His other works are a collection of military anecdotes entitled The Honourable Reputation of a Souldier (1585); a political tract, the English Myrror (1586), numerous elegies on distinguished persons, and The Censure of a Loyall Subject (1587). No information about Whetstone is available after the publication of this last book, and it is conjectured that he died shortly afterwards.
End of Article: GEORGE WHETSTONE (1544?-1587?)

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