Home  »  Volume VI: English THE DRAMA TO 1642 Part Two  »  § 17. His work in collaboration with others

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

IV. Thomas Heywood

§ 17. His work in collaboration with others

Thus, passing by Heywood’ seven pageants (1631–9), to the civic enthusiasm of which reference has already been made, we come, in conclusion, to two plays in which he collaborated with other writers. Of these, Fortune by Land and Sea was not printed till 1655, as the joint production of Thomas Heywood and William Rowley (both of whose names were mis-spelt on the title-page); but it belongs to a far earlier date—possibly 1607–9, when both dramatists were included in queen Anne’ company. The strong hand of William Rowley may be discernible in this piece, which has a firmer texture than is usual with his fellow playwright, and it may (or may not) have been that hand which gave dramatic form to the adventures and sentiments of the pirates Clinton and Walton (the purser), apparently long-lived favourites of adventures and sentiments of the pirates very far apart in that spacious age. In substance, however, it is a domestic drama in Heywood’ most characteristic manner, while it bears witness once more to his love of the sea. The admirable opening—a tavern brawl, the bloody ending of which forms the starting point of the action—resembles that of Heywood’ masterpiece; the troubles of Old Forrest are treated with gentle pathos; and the very humours of the clown are tinged with the kindliness which can relieve even tomfoolery.

The late Lancashire Witches was printed in 1634 as the joint work of Thomas Heywood and Richard Brome. But the story of the play was based, in part, upon an account, published by T. Potts in 1613, of the doings of certain Lancashire women, of whom twelve had suffered death as witches in the previous year; and it is possible that Heywood was the author of a play much earlier than that put on the stage in 1634. In this year, another “discovery” of witches had attracted public attention, and the principal witness in this case (who appears in the play as the boy) had been brought up to London. This ingenuous creature afterwards confessed that his evidence before the Lancashire magistrates had been suborned, and the accused, unlike their unfortunate predecessors in 1612, were pardoned. But the authors of The late Lancashire Witches cannot be acquitted on the charge that they had, pendente lite, done their utmost to intensify public feeling against “witches”—whether or not their play was furbished up from an earlier piece written by one of them. This makes it difficult to peruse with patience the regulation in this drama of the superstitious fictions which did twelve unhappy women to death—the “ridings” through the air and the unholy assemblies, together with the mischievous interference at a wedding feast and other rites. Yet, in this farrago of half realistic nonsense, it is possible to discern the elements of effective domestic drama, and the touching scene in which Master Generous seeks to redeem his misguided wife from her evil practices breathes a spirit akin to that which animates some of the finest passages in Heywood’ dramatic work.