Thomas Nashe was born in Lowestoft, Suffolk. He studied at St John's College Cambridge and travelled widely in France and Italy before coming to London and involving himself in the Martin Marprelate controversy. The Martin Marprelate Pamphlets were a series of satirical tracts attacking the Bishops. Nashe was involved in the production of several anti-Martinist pamphlets in the early 1590's which established his talent for vituperation (skill in the use of abusive reproaches). The controversy raged on until 1599 during which time he focused his efforts on attacking the writers Richard and Gabriel Harvey who had criticised Nashe's mentor Robert Greene. 'Pierce Pennilesse, his Supplication to the Devil' (1592) was the first of Nashe's viscous attacks which culminated in 'Have with you to Saffron-Walden' (1596).
Nashe then turned to a variety of other literary pursuits. The Unfortunate Traveller was a picturesque tail laced with literary parody and the use of the mock-heroic. It was the first of its kind and remains his most famous work. After the death of the playwright Christopher Marlowe Nashe prepared his unfinished tragedy Dido, Queen of Carthage (1596) for the stage.
The satirical comedy The Isle of Dogs (1597), written jointly with Jonson, provoked the authorities into closing down the theatre and throwing Nashe into Fleet prison. His last work Nashes Lenten Stuffe (1599) was a comic eulogy (false appraisal) on the red herring, or kipper.