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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

§ 16. Other Plays

The English Traveller, printed in 1633, was probably acted in or about 1627; but the evidence on the subject is slight. The story of Geraldine is told by Heywood in his History of Women as having “lately happened within” his “own knowledge”; but the attempts which have been made to identify the hero remain mere conjectures. The main plot with which the young traveller is concerned turns on the idea which lies at the root of Heywood’ finest dramatic designs—that, if to err is human, to forgive is what raises humanity beyond the earth. There is genius in the twofold capacity for thinking nobly and beyond the range of common minds, and for bringing home such thoughts to their comprehension and sympathy. The by-plot of this drama is derived from Plautus.

A few words will suffice as to the remaining extant plays of which Heywood was sole author. Among these, The Captives, or The Lost Recovered, which was not printed until 1883, when Mr. A. H. Bullen discovered a copy of it in the British Museum, is, by external evidence as well as by that of style and manner, proved to be that entered as “by Hayward” in Sir Henry Herbert’ office book under the date 1634. This romantic comedy exhibits the writer’ patriotic spirit, as well as his love of the sea and its ways. The main story is taken from the Rudens of Plautus, several passages in which are translated in the play, but it seems to have reached the author through the Italian hand of Masuccio Salernitano. The underplot, which is derived from an old French fabliau, translated into an English jest-book and retold by Heywood in his History of Women, recalls the scenes with the friars in The Jew of Malta, a play which Heywood worked up for representation before he published it in 1632, possibly himself introducing into it these very scenes. Another romantic drama, A Mayden-Head well lost (printed in 1634, but acted some time earlier—it contains dumb-shows, but little rime) has little or nothing in it to redeem the offensiveness of its plot, one of the numerous versions of the story of All’ Well that Ends Well, relieved by drollery very inferior to that of Parolles. A Challenge for Beautie (printed in 1636, and probably produced on the stage only a year or two earlier) is, in some respects, more characteristic of Heywood, and is, in truth, written throughout in a vein of the most blatant national self-consciousness. The main argument of the piece, the pride of the Spanish-born queen who arrogantly sends forth one of her courtiers to find her superior if he can—of course he finds her in England—resembles an Arabian night’ tale, but the loss of the fair Hellena’ ring in a washhand-basin is a trivial expedient. The by-plot of Ferars and Valladolid’ rivalry, which ends in the discovery that the lady adored by both is the sister of the Englishman, is extremely theatrical but not the least satisfactory. Finally, the latest of Heywood’ plays in date of production is, probably, Loves Maistresse: Or, The Queens Masque, performed in 1633, and again in the following year at Denmark house on the king’ birthday, and printed in 1636. This dramatic entertainment, into which Fleay has read the signs of a theatrical quarrel between Apuleius (Heywood) and Midas (Christopher Beeston), cannot have given much pleasure even to the instructed except in some pretty passages, especially in the earlier scenes dealing with the story of Cupid and Psyche; to the uninstructed, it must have seemed a shapeless jumble of mythological learning. Heywood lacked the lyrical gift needed to animate an effort of this nature; and Midas, who repeatedly declines to see out the play, may be pardoned for finding consolation in the dances.