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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

§ 14. The Royall King, and The Loyall Subject

In The Royall King, and The Loyall Subject, which, though not printed till 1637, was, undoubtedly, of a relatively early date, we have an indisputable piece of Heywood’ workmanship. His muse took a lofty flight on this occasion, seeking renown in romantic drama. Like Fletcher’ similarly named play, from which it altogether differs in treatment, Heywood’ is founded on a novel by Bandello; but the dramatist is clearly anxious that his localisation of the story in England should be express and explicit; so that it is difficult—though useless—not to speculate on the possibility of some personal application being intended. Yet the story of the play is wildly improbable, and before the long-suffering fidelity of the Marshal and his family even Patient Grissel’ pales; in short, an impression of artificiality mars the total effect. Moreover, the action, as it were, begins over again, after it had seemed to have reached its height. In a word, though the diction, in the case of the principal plot, maintains a level unusual with Heywood, the conception is superior to its execution, and the by-plot, which essays to illustrate the commonplace saying that clothes make the man, is, as not unfrequently with Heywood, extravagant and in part offensive. This play, which, very possibly, was earlier than A Woman Kilde with Kindnesse, cannot claim to be ranked beside it.

The of Lucrece, printed in 1609, but first produced soon after the accession of James I, is, again, in a different style, if style of any sort can be ascribed to this odd medley of tragedy and vaudeville. As to the serious action, all that need be said is that the dramatist has contrived to provoke a strange thrill of mixed pity and terror by the picture of the house of Collatinus when the morning dawns on Tarquin’ crime. It is here that he introduces the one exquisite lyric known to have come from his pen. The other songs—a budget of what at the present day would be called music hall ditties interspersed in the action of this “true Roman tragedy” by Valerius, “the merry Lord among the Roman peers”—are, in part, of antiquarian interest (such as the list of London taverns, and that of the street cries of Rome); they reach the nadir of shameless inappropriateness in the catch with which the merry lord, Horatius Cocles and the clown “follow on,” when the tragic action is suspended at its height.