Thomas Heywood (1573-1641)

" It is probable that Thomas Heywood was born about 1575 in Lincolnshire. He was educated at Cambridge, and became a fellow of Peterhouse. During his residence at the University he became deeply interested in the stage, and doubtless contributed to the "tragedies, comedies, histories, pastorals, and shows" which he tells us were acted in his time by "graduates of good place."

In 1596 he came to London and wrote a play for the Lord Admiral's Company, to which in 1598 we find him regularly attached as an actor. Of the dramas which he composed at this time, The Four Prentices of London is probably the only one which survives. We have, however, a series of tame chronicle-plays which seem to date from 1600.

Heywood's masterpiece, A Woman Killed with Kindness, was produced in 1602 (printed in 1607). In the very interesting preface to The English Traveller, which was not published until 1633, Heywood tells us that this tragicomedy is but "one reserved amongst two hundred and twenty, in which I have had either an entire hand or at the least a main finger." Even at that date, many of these plays had "been negligently lost," and Heywood adds that "it never was any great ambition in me to be in this kind voluminously read." Of his vast body of dramatic writing, therefore, we may be surprised that so many as twenty-four complete plays have come down to us.

Of his more ambitious, but less successful, non-dramatic works, Troja Britannica was published in 1609, Gunaikeion, or, Nine Books Concerning Women in 1624, and The Hierarchy of the Blessed Angels in 1635. He disappears after 1641."


"Thomas Heywood."
English Literature: An Illustrated Record. Vol II, part 2.
Richard Garnett and Edmund Gosse, Eds.
New York,
The Macmillan company, 1904. 342.

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