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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

§ 15. The Fair Maid Of The West

In The Fair Maid Of The West, printed in 1631, which is undoubtedly and unmistakably Heywood’ we have another romantic comedy, but one in which the patriotic note sounds clearly and the salt breeze of the sea blows to and from our island shores. Part I of this dramatic Odyssey (which must have been founded on some popular tale unknown to us) begins with a delightfully vivid picture of English seaport life, localised at Plymouth and dated by a dumb-show as at the time of the expedition of Essex to the Azores. On the Hoe, the gallant Spencer parts from the lovely Besse Bridges, the pride of the Castle inn—he to sail for “Fiall,” she to keep her faith and fortune for him at Foy. Soon afterwards, we are transported into the land of eastern romance, and, after divers marvellous adventures—all redounding to the honour and glory of Elizabethan England and her sailors—we leave the lovers reunited as the honoured guests of king Mullisheg of Fesse. Part II completes the story in three stirring acts, brimful of lust, courage, sensitive honour and royal magnanimity, enough in their combination to furnish forth an entire drama. But, as in The Royall King, the author cannot leave well alone, and, in acts IV–V, adds a further series of adventures in Italy, beginning with a shipwreck, which must have gone near to surfeit even an Elizabethan audience. But the English “spirit and fire,” and the kindly clowning of Clem, Besse’ faithful “drawer” and constant follower in east and west, hold out to the end.