Biography Anthony Munday

Anthony Munday

photo of Anthony Munday
  • Time Period1553 - 1633
  • Place
  • CountryEngland

Poet Biography

English poet, dramatist, pamphleteer, and translator.
Munday had some experience as an actor before he was 16, when he was apprenticed to a well-known printer. In 1578 he was abroad, evidently as a secret agent sent to discover the plans of English Catholic refugees in France and Italy, and under a false name he obtained admission to the English College at Rome for several months. On his return he renewed his connection with the stage. After 1579 his writings streamed from the press; they included popular ballads, some original lyrics of great charm, much moralizing in verse, translations of many volumes of French and Spanish romances, and prose pamphlets, but only two of his many plays.
In 1581-82 Munday was prominent in the capture and trials of the Jesuit emissaries (many of whom he had known at Rome) who followed the martyr Edmund Campion to England. Critics have found his English Romayne Lyfe (1582) of permanent interest as a detailed and entertaining, though hostile, description of life and study in the English College at Rome. By 1586 he had been appointed one of the "messengers of her majesty's chamber," a post he seems to have held for the rest of Elizabeth I's reign.
Little is known about Munday's career as actor and playwright. His Fedele and Fortunio (1584 at latest), an adaptation of Luigi Pasqualigo's Il Fedele, played at court and was printed in 1585. John a Kent and John a Cumber, his earliest surviving original play, was probably written before the middle of 1589. He was apparently the only early Elizabethan dramatist whose popularity continued after William Shakespeare's rise in the mid-1590s, and he was still receiving commissions from Phillip Henslowe in 1602. From the late 1590s until at least 1623, he wrote many of the pageants with which lord mayors of London celebrated their entry into office.