The Shaping of Wit in the Euphuistic Prose of John Lyly

Yuval Kramer


Nowhere in the corpus of early modern English literature is the idea of “wit” given a more central expression than in the prose tradition that was to produce what is now termed euphuism. This paper is concerned with the shaping of the euphuistic wit, as a self-referential quality and as a response to Ciceronian rhetoric. The paper discusses the appearance of the euphuistic wit in John Lyly’s Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit, as a rhetorical and intellectual expression of the author’s anxieties regarding the rhetorical tradition. It concludes by viewing this as mirroring Lyly’s own precarious position between the demands of patronage and those of the marketplace.


euphuism; euphues; rhetoric; lyly; greene; wit; self-referential; commonplaces

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