GOSSON, Stephen

(c. 1554-1624)
The most famous among the attackers of poetry and the theater in Elizabethan England, Stephen Gosson started out, ironically enough, as a poet, playwright, and actor, then turned to pamphlet and fiction writing, and finally settled into a clerical career. He was born into the family of a humble joiner, and his life is a case study of the growth of an English humanist. His solid education at the King's School at Canterbury was followed by four years of studies at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. But Gosson never showed up for the final ceremony of determination, probably because he lacked the money to keep himself at Oxford without a fellowship. Instead, he left for London, hoping to find patron­age for his pastoral and elegiac poetry. He also tried his hand at the more profitable trade of playwrighting and acting.
When he published the antitheatrical pamphlet The Schoole ofAbuse in 1579, this involvement with the theater must have caused him some embarrassment. But in a brilliant journalistic move, Gosson reclaimed his defection from the stage as moral awakening. He followed his first blast against the stage with another pamphlet, Plays Confuted in Five Actions (1582), starting a long-lasting pamphlet war between the theater opponents and its defenders.
The turn to satirical pamphleteering changed Gosson's fortunes. From an im­poverished actor and poet, he became a tutor, then probably a government agent on the Continent. By his thirties, he had taken holy orders and had embarked on a promising clerical career. His pugnacious sermons won him the affection of his parishioners and the respect of Richard Bancroft, bishop of London. In 1600 he reached the peak of his career as the rector of one of the wealthiest London churches, St. Botolph, where he remained until his death.
W. Ringler, Stephen Gosson: A Biographical and Critical Study, 1942.
Kirilka Stavreva

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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