HEYWOOD, Thomas

(c. 1575-1641)
The most prolific and versatile writer of the age of William Shakespeare,* Thomas Heywood, according to his own boast, had a hand or at least a "main finger" in more than two hundred plays. He composed in most of the major genres of the era, from topical pamphlets and epic verse to prose history.
Born in Lincolnshire, Heywood spent some time at Cambridge before going to seek his fortune in London. Throughout his life, he was involved with the theater as an actor, shareholder, and dramatist. Heywood wrote for the whole gamut of London theaters, from the riotous down-market Red Bull through the intimate clublike theater within St. Paul s Cathedral to the court stage. He also composed annual pageants for London s lord mayor.
Heywood s belief in the dignity of actors and acting found expression in his Apology for Actors (1612), the first English defense of the stage. He is best known for his domestic dramas (A Woman Killed with Kindness, 1607), adven­ture romances (The Fair Maid of the West, 1631), and comedies of low life (The Wise-Woman of Hogsdon, 1638). The strong female characters in these plays anticipate the appeal of the heroines of Henrik Ibsen and Bertolt Brecht. Several of his prose works were also devoted to strong historical women: Gun-aikeion (1624), reprinted after his death as The General History of Women (1657), The Exemplary Lives and Memorable Acts of Nine the Most Worthy Women ofthe World (1640), and a biography of the early years of Queen Eliz­abeth* (1631).
Contemporary life was not Heywood s sole interest. He started his career with chronicle-history plays and finished it with a dramatic reproduction of Greek mythology in The Four Ages (1611-32). His nondramatic works likewise ranged from the didactic poem The Hierarchy of the Blessed Angels (1635) to trans­lations of Latin writers from antiquity and the Renaissance.
Bibliography
B. Baines, Thomas Heywood, 1984.
Kirilka Stavreva

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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