Poet. Born at Hartshill, Warwickshire. He entered the household of Sir Henry Goodere of Polesworth, a patron of the arts who ensured that he was given a good education. Almost one of the family, Michael Drayton became besotted with his patron's daughter, Anne, and he was to write poetry about her, in the form of an "Idea". He continued to visit her after she was married and living at Clifford Chambers, south of Stratford-upon-Avon. Little is known of his life, except what can be gleaned from his copius writings, but he was able to eke out a living by attracting further patrons, spending most of his adult life in London. Although never achieving royal patronage he could count on the friendship of many of the poets and playwrights of the time. His fortunes declined towards the end of his life but he had the distinction of being buried in Westminster Abbey where there is a monument to him. A less obvious form of memorial, a stone bus shelter in the shape of a scroll, has been erected in his honour at Hartshill Green.
His first work to be published was The harmony of the church (1591) which was based on Old Testament writings. Two years later Idea; the shepherd's garland appeared and this was very much in the style of Edmund Spencer (1552-1599). It included a lament on the death of Sir Philip Sidney. The sonnet was very fashionable at this time and Drayton's major sonnet sequence was launched with Idea's mirror in 1594.
Heroical epistles (1596) draws on material contained in Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland, the work of Raphael Holinshed (and others) first published in 1577, a work used extensively by William Shakespeare. Holinshed had Warwickshire connections including being a steward at Bramcote Hall, near to Polesworth, and he may have been known to Michael Drayton. Drayton wrote in the style of Ovid, substituting English heroes drawn from Holinshed for mythological lovers.
The most ambitious work of Michael Drayton is his Poly-Olbion which he wrote and revised over a period of twenty-four years, finally completing it in 1622. It describes a journey through the English countryside in a series of thirty songs, each up to 500 lines long.
The following work is available in the West Midlands Creative Literature Collection:-
A selection of poetry by the author can be found at:-
A Life of Michael Drayton by Anniina Jokinen can be read online. There are also selected e-texts and other links.
Page created 9 February 2001 and last
updated 28 October 2002
For your literary enquiries and comments please see the Who to contact page.
Please read the general terms and conditions and about accessibility on this site, including the use of the UK government accesskeys system.