I begin with the suggestion that we love Shakespeare too much. Early modern literary criticism’s longstanding institutional and pedagogical affi liations with Elizabethan drama have led us to distort and misread the relationship between drama and prose fi ction in this period, especially in the hybrid genre of romance. If, as Douglas Bruster has argued, “Shakespeare . . . is the center from which countless studies of early modern texts and phenomena take their being” (186), one consequence of this drama-centered critical history is a long tradition that separates the theater from prose romance and other products of the printing press.1 Now that scholarship is taking prose fi ction and print culture more seriously, it should reconsider the dynamic overlap between these modes of literary presentation.2 The separation of dramatic and prose romance, and the trivialization of the latter as mere “sources,” misreads both genres: we oversimplify or ignore narrative romance, and idealize and overgeneralize dramatic tragicomedy. Recovering the cultural ambition of Elizabethan writers like Robert Greene, Thomas Lodge, and Thomas Nashe can help correct these failings by recognizing in the print publication of their prose works a considered challenge to drama (including their own drama). As Thomas Brabine’s celebratory poem to Greene’s popular romance Menaphon (1589) announces, the scholarly and literary excellence of these texts intended to shame “thunder[ing]” playwrights and expose their dependence on mere players. Against these “drumming

descants,” printed prose romance positioned itself as an elite academic pursuit, “worth a Schollers sight.”