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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VI. The Drama to 1642, Part Two.

IV. Thomas Heywood

§ 12. Changes in the social system and their effect on the Drama

In occasional combination with the realistic appeal to the sentiment of terror which gives much direct force to the murder plays, the Elizabethan and early Jacobean domestic drama also occupies itself with other motives, the operation of which powerfully affects the course of human life and is most clearly perceptible when its conditions are least complicated and unsual. The faithful observance of the marriage tie and the shameful neglect of it, parental love and the pangs inflicted by filial ingratitude—such are the themes which frequently recur in the dramatic literature of this period. The faithful wife appears in How a man may chuse a good Wife from a bad, mentioned above, from which The Faire Maide of Bristow, possibly by Day, printed in 1602, is imitated, though the story of the latter play is thrown back into the reign of Richard I. The Miseries of Inforst Mariage, by George Wilkins, printed in 1607, in a measure varies the theme; but the pathos of the first two acts loses itself in a picture of reckless despair which is neither probable nor pleasing, and, though the sentimental element reappears, it is effectually submerged by the most imbecile of “happy endings.” The graceless son plays his part in The London Prodigall, noticed above among the plays attributed to Shakespeare, where the figure of the faithful wife also recurs in the person of Luce, one of the many reproductions in the English drama of the Patient Grissel type, which Chettle, Dekker and Haughton brought on the stage by their treatment of the famous romantic theme. It seems unnecessary to pursue further in this place the development of English domestic drama, though, among the abnormally conceived and artificially constructed plays of the early Stewart period, there are not a few in which the directness distinctive of the entire species asserts itself either in the main action of the play or in particular scenes, even when overspread by some rank exotic intrigue or driven into the corner by the intrusion of some supernatural fancy.