Title page of Greenes Groats-worth of Witte, STC 12245.
Internal evidence in the tracts suggests that Robert Greene was a pen-name of Oxfords from 1580 to 1592. In 1592, Oxford abandoned the pen-name, partly as a result of the Harvey/Nashe quarrel. In Greene's Groatsworth Of Wit, Robert Greene's imminent demise was announced, and Oxford's new pen-name, William Shakespeare, was introduced in the well known passage:
Yes, trust them not for there is an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his tigers heart wrapped in a players hide, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you, and being an absolute Johannes factotum, is in his own conceit the only Shake-scene in a country.
Disbelief that an embittered Robert Greene was the real author of Groatsworth has been expressed from the moment the tract was printed, as evidenced by the fact that Nashe defended himself against rumours that he was the author in an epistle to the second edition of Pierce Penilesse (1592):
Other news I am advertised of, that a scald trivial lying pamphlet called Greene's Groatsworth of Wit is given out to be of my doing. God never have care of my soul, but utterly renounce me, if the least word or syllable in it proceeded from my pen, or if I were any way privy to the writing or printing of it.
The next person to defend himself against the imputation that he was the author of Groatsworth was none other than Nashes old compositor (as he calls himself in Have With You To Saffron Walden), Henry Chettle, who, in Kind-Hearts Dream (1592) wrote:
About three months since died M. Robert Greene, leaving many papers in sundry booksellers' hands, among other his Groatsworth of Wit, in which a letter written to divers play-makers is offensively by one or two of them taken, and because on the dead they cannot be avenged, they wilfully forge in their conceits a living author, and after tossing it to and fro, no remedy but it must light on me.
Doubts about Robert Greenes authorship of Groatsworth have persisted to the present day.
WORKS WRITTEN BY OXFORD UNDER THE PEN-NAME 'ROBERT GREENE' AND WILLS OF DEDICATEES
Will of Anne (nee Kempe) Shirley (c.1542-1623), sister of Alice (nee Kempe) Hales, the dedicatee of Menaphon, and half-sister of the comedian Will Kempe, and grandmother of the playwright, Henry Shirley