Richard Barnfield was an English poet.
Barnfield was born at Norbury, Staffordshire, and brought up in Newport, Shropshire. He was baptized on 13 June 1574, the son of Richard Barnfield, gentleman. His obscure though close relationship with William Shakespeare has long made him interesting to scholars. In November 1589 Barnfield matriculated at Brasenose College, Oxford, and took his degree in February 1592. He performed the exercise for his masters gown, but seems to have left the university abruptly, without proceeding to the M.A.
It is conjectured that he came up to London in 1593, and became acquainted with Watson, Drayton, and perhaps with Edmund Spenser. The death of Sir Philip Sidney had occurred while Barnfield was still a school-boy, but it seems to have strongly affected his imagination and to have inspired some of his earliest verses. In November 1594, in his twenty-first year, Barnfield published anonymously his first work, The Affectionate Shepherd, dedicated with familiar devotion to Penelope Rich, Lady Rich. This was a sort of florid romance, in two books of six-line stanzas, in the manner of Lodge and Shakespeare, dealing at large with the complaint of Daphnis for the love of Ganymede. As the author expressly admitted later, it was an expansion or paraphrase of Virgil's second eclogue Formosum pastor Corydon ardebat Alexim.