As one illustration of this phenomenon, how many of the following names do you recognize: Thomas Kyd, Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlowe, Inigo Jones and Thomas Middleton. The average person probably won’t recognize even one of the names, though college theater students and those with an academic or literary bent will recognize one or two of them easily. They were all Elizabethan poets and playwrights who were widely considered in their own time to have written works that were Art. Each was learned, well-versed in the use of the Greek and Latin that were the rage in academia of the time, and the customs, mores and themes that appealed to the educated noble class that kept most of them alive with honorariums. Most of them couldn’t draw a crowd with a public performance of their work, so they took to writing for and dedicating their works to moneyed nobles, who were then expected to send a gift to the author. Each was also considered a far better Artist than one other of their peer group.
That contemporary of these great artists was considered by his peers to be a mere Entertainer, a craftsman and panderer to the masses, the "penny knaves," as Jonson derisively called them in reference to the cost of admission to the cheap seats. His work was full of exciting swordfights, hot-blooded romance and all the other things that appealed to the average Joe. Indeed, he was the Aaron Spelling of his day, a man who made good money appealing to those penny knaves and who was liked personally by his peers, but was not respected by them for his works. When Henry Peacham published The Complete Gentleman in 1622, this poet and playwright’s name was not on the list of great Elizabethan poets, although it is certain that Peacham knew the man personally at least as early as 1595. In case you haven’t already figured it out, the person we’re talking about here was William Shakespeare.