In his address To all Christian Readers Nashe explains away his delay in answering Harvey's previous attack on him and briefly sketches his intentions for the ensuing pamphlet. In excuse for his delay, he complains that such "bitter-sauced invectives" do not pay well; that he is answering now not out of hatred but because Harvey's supporters have begun to claim his silence means he is unable to answer; and adds that he set Harvey's previous attack on one side for two years to allow himself to deal with it more dispassionately. In outlining the form of his pamphlet, he explains it will be "in the nature of a Dialogue" between four persons who are to discuss the offence Harvey has given Nashe by his attack and, like seconds in a duel, advise him on how to proceed. Though he gives the four persons comical pseudonyms[8] Nashe specifically claims they are all actual men, describes them with some particularity and adds they have "dealt with me in the same manner that here I shadow".

The dialogue consists of the four friends meeting Nashe in Blackfriars, asking him why he has failed to answer Harvey, and warning him that his reputation is suffering in consequence. Nashe says he has written an answer, and offers to read them part of his reply. What ensues is Nashe's detailed critique of Harvey's pamphlet attacking him, with frequent interruptions from the four others deriding the doctor, his style, his past, his pretensions to scholarship, his family background and his supporters, especially one anonymous gentlewoman. A satirical mock-biography of Harvey is also inserted, a lengthy passage which Nashe claims to have written some time earlier.


In poetry, a tetrameter is a line of four metrical feet. The particular foot can vary, as follows: