There is a question of whether or not Elizabethans were especially fond of coining new words.
I agree, it can certainly be overstated, and usually is with Shakespeare. Of all the Elizabethan playwrights it was John Marston that was most noted for his neologisms, and not noted approvingly. His fondness for them in fact invited ridicule from his fellows, including famously Ben Jonson who introduced Marston as the poet Crispinus in his play The Poetaster. In the play the other Roman poets (including Horace, who represents Jonson himself) seize Crispinus and force him to take a purge, which hilariously causes him to vomit forth some of his ‘fusty words’. Certainly there is personal malice behind the attack on Marston by Jonson but one only has to read Marston’s plays to see that Jonson was spot on target here. It’s not that Marston isn’t a fine playwright (he is, and wrote some wonderful plays, both comedies and tragedies) but he does love new words. As Stanley Wells observes in English Drama, Excluding Shakespeare (Oxford, Select Bibliographical Guides):
As Cross observes, the OED cites Marston more often than any other writer, Shakespeare excepted, as a coiner of words or user of words in new senses at the turn of the seventeenth century.
As we all know, there’s a caveat here: an earliest appearance does not a coinage make, and it’s quite probable that a large number of Shakespeare’s “neologisms” had in fact appeared earlier in English (Especially given the fact that none of his colleagues remarked on this flood of supposed new words). With Marston however we can be a little more confident that many of the words listed are in fact the children of his own fancy, although again one can never be certain.
As it’s both hilarious and instructive I quote a little from Crispinus’ ordeal in Act V, sc. i of The Poetaster.
Tib. How now, Crispinus?
Cris. O, I am sick—!
Hor. A bason, a bason, quickly; our physic works. Faint not, man.
Caes. What’s that, Horace?
Hor. Retrograde, reciprocal, and incubus, are come up.
Gal. Thanks be to Jupiter!
Hor. Well said; here’s some store.
Virg. What are they?
Hor. Glibbery, lubrical, and defunct.
Gal. O, they came up easy.
Tib. What’s that?
Hor. Nothing yet.
Mec. Magnificate! That came up somewhat hard.
Hor. Ay. What cheer, Crispinus?
Cris. O! I shall cast up my———spurious———snotteries———
Hor. Good. Again.
Hor. That clumsie stuck terribly.
Mec. What’s all that, Horace?
Hor. Spurious, snotteries, chilblain’d, clumsie.
Tib. O Jupiter!
Gal. Who would have thought there should have been such a deal of
filth in a poet?
Cris. O———balmy froth———
Caes. What’s that?
Hor. Balmy, froth, puffie, inflate, turgidous, and ventosity are
Tib. O terrible windy words.
Gal. A sign of a windy brain.
Hor. Here’s a deal; oblatrant, furibund, fatuate, strenuous.
Caes. Now all’s come up, I trow. What a tumult he had in his belly?
Hor. No, there’s the often conscious damp behind still.
Hor. It is come up, thanks to Apollo and Aesculapius: another; you
were best take a pill more.
And taking strenuous at random we find for its earliest cite in OED:
1602 J. Marston Antonios Reuenge v. i. sig. I2, The fist of strenuous vengeance is clutcht.
Right on the nose, Ben!
And I just love that, “I shall cast up my spurious snotteries!”. Stored away, for I just know it will stand me in good stead one of these days. :)