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Thomas Heywood

Thomas Heywood (died about 1650) was an English dramatist and miscellaneous author.

He was born about 1575 in Lincolnshire, born about 1575, and said to have been educated at the University of Cambridge and to have become a fellow of Peterhouse. Heywood is mentioned by Philip Henslowe as having written a book or play for the Lord Admiral's company of actors in October 1596; and by 1598 he was regularly engaged as a player in the company, in which he presumably had a share, as no wages are mentioned. He was also a member of other companies, of Lord Southampton's, the Earl of Derby's and the Earl of Worcester's players (afterwards known as the Queen's Servants). In his preface to the English Traveller (1633) he describes himself as having had "an entire hand or at least a main finger in two hundred ane twenty plays." Of this number, probably considerably increased before the close of his dramatic career, only twenty-three survive.

Heywood wrote for the stage, and protested against the printing of his works, which he said he had no time to revise. Johann Ludwig Tieck called him the "model of a light and rare talent", and his plays, as might be expected from his rate of production, bear little trace of artistic elaboration, Charles Lamb called him a "prose Shakespeare"; Professor Ward, one of Heywood's most sympathetic editors, pointed out that Heywood had a keen eye for dramatic situations and great constructive skill, but his powers of characterization were not on a par with his stagecraft. He delighted in what he called "merry accidents," that is, in coarse, broad farce; his fancy and invention were inexhaustible. It was in the domestic drama of sentiment that he won his most distinctive success. For this he was especially fitted by his genuine tenderness and his freedom from affectation, by the sweetness and gentleness for which Lamb praised him. His masterpiece, A Woman kilde with kindnesse (acted 1603; printed 1607), is a type of the comedie larmoyante, and The English Traveller (1633) is a domestic tragedy scarcely inferior to it in pathos and in the elevation of its moral tone.

His first play was probably The Foure Prentises of London: With the Conquest of Jerusalem (printed 1615, but acted some fifteen years earlier). This may have been intended as a burlesque of the old romances, but it is more likely that it was meant seriously to attract the apprentice public to whom it was dedicated, and its popularity was no doubt aimed at in Beaumont and Fletcher's travesty of the City taste in drama in their Knight of the Burning Pestle. The two parts of King Edward the Fourth (printed 1600), and of If you know not me, you know no bodie; Or, The Troubles of Queene Elizabeth (1605 and 1606) are chronicle histories.

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