PAYNTER (or PAINTER), WILLIAM (c. 1540-1594), English author, was a native of Kent. He matriculated at St John's College, Cambridge, in 1554. In 1561 he became clerk of the ordnance in the Tower of London, a position in which he appears to have amassed a fortune out of the public funds. In 1586 he confessed that he owed the government a thousand pounds, and in the next year further charges of peculation were brought against him. In 1591 his son Anthony owned that he and his father had abused their trust, but Paynter retained his office until his death. This event probably followed immediately upon his will, which was nuncupative and was dated the 14th of February 1594. The first volume of his Palace of Pleasure appeared in 1566, and was dedicated to the earl of Warwick. It included sixty tales, and was followed in the next year by a second volume containing thirty-four new ones. A second improved edition in 1575 contained seven new stories. Paynter borrows from Herodotus, Plutarch, Aulus Gcllius, Aelian, Livy, Tacitus, Quintus Curtius; from Giraldi Cinthio, Matteo Bandello, Ser Giovanni Fiorentino, Straparola, Queen Margaret of Navarre and others. To the vogue of this and similar collections we owe the Italian setting of so large a proportion of the Elizabethan drama. The early tragedies of A p plus and Virginia, and Tancred and Gismund were taken from The Palace of Pleasure; and among better-known plays derived from the book are the Shakespearian Timon of Athens, All's Well that Ends Well (from Giletta of Narbonne), Beaumont and Fletcher's Triumph of Death and Shirley's Love's Cruelty.
The Palace of Pleasure was edited by Joseph Haslewood in 1813. This edition was collated (1890) with the British Museum copy of !575 by M r Joseph Jacobs, who added further prefatory matter, including an introduction dealing with the importance of Italian novelle in Elizabethan drama.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)