HEYWOOD, THOMAS (d. c. 1650), English dramatist and miscellaneous author, was a native of Lincolnshire, born about 1575, and said to have been educated at 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 in 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, of the earl of Derby's and of 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 mam finger in two hundred and twenty plays." Of this number, probably considerably increased before the close of his dramatic career, only twenty-three survive. He wrote for the stage, not for the press, and protested against the printing of his works, which he said he had no time to revise. He was, said Tieck, the " model of a light and rapid 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, points out that this epigrammatic statement can only be accepted with reservations. 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 // you know not me, you know no bodie; Or, The Troubles of Queene Elizabeth (1605 and 1606) are chronicle histories. His other comedies include: The Royall King, and the Loyall subject (acted c. 1600; printed 1637) ; the two parts of The Fair Maid of the West; Or, A Girle worth Gold (two parts, printed 1631); The Fayre Maid of the Exchange (printed anonymously 1607); The Late Lancashire Witches (1634), written with Richard Brome, and prompted by an actual trial in the preceding year; A Pleasant Comedy, called A May den- Head well lost (1634); A Challenge for Beautie (1636) ; The Wise-Woman of Hogsdon (printed 1638), the witchcraft in this case being matter for comedy, not seriously treated as in the Lancashire play; and Fortune by Land and Sea (printed 1655), with William Rowley. The five plays called respectively The Golden, The Silver, The Brazen and The Iron Age (the last in two parts), dated 1611, 1613, i6i3,.1632, are series of classical stories strung together with no particular connexion except that " old Homer " introduces the performers of each act in turn. Loves Maistresse; Or, The Queens Masque (printed 1636) is on the story of Cupid and Psyche as told by Apuleius; and the tragedy of the Rape of Lucrece (1608) is varied by a " merry lord," Valerius, who lightens the gloom of the situation by singing comic songs. A series of pageants, most of them devised for the City of London, or its guilds, by Heywood, were printed in 1637. In vol. iv. of his Collection of Old English Plays (1885), Mr A. H. Bullen printed for the first time a comedy by Heywood, The Captives, or The Lost Recovered (licensed 1624), and in vol. ii. of the same series, Dicke of Devonshire, which he tentatively assigns to the same hand.
Besides his dramatic works, twelve of which were reprinted by the " Shakespeare Society," and were published by Mr John Pearson in a complete edition of six vols. with notes and illustrations in 1874, he was the author of Troia Britannica, or Great Britain's Troy (1609), a poem in seventeen cantos "intermixed with many pleasant poetical tales " and " concluding with an universal chronicle from the creation until the present time"; An Apology for Actors, containing three brief treatises (1612) edited for the Shakespeare Society in 1841; Tvva.uei.ov or nine books of various history concerning women (1624); England's Elizabeth, her Life and Troubles during her minority from the Cradle to the Crown (1631); The Hierarchy of the Blessed Angels (1635), a didactic poem in nine books; Pleasant Dialogue, and Dramas selected out of Lucian, etc. (1637; ed. W. Bang, Louvain, 1903); and The Life of Merlin surnamed Ambrosius (1641).
See A. W. Ward, History of English Dram. Lit. ii. 550 seq. (1899); the same author's Introduction to A woman killed with kindness ("Temple Dramatists," 1897); J. A. Symonds in the Introduction to Thomas Heywood in the " Mermaid " series (new issue, 1903).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)