CHAPTER VIII
A GENERAL SURVEY

Page references to Farmer's collected edition of the plays.

IT REMAINS TO BE PROVED THAT HEYWOOD WAS NO hand-to-mouth plagiarist, but a regular pupil of the French stage. Since this conclusion must rest rather upon broad impression than exact inference, the evidence must be treated with caution and considered as a whole. Any brisk and sophisticated talent might, by contrast with the bulk of early Tudor work, appear to have been formed in a French school, and might indeed have acquired many French traits at second-hand. Without a definite source, we can seldom be sure that direct foreign influence exists; but, whatever the difficulty of establishing particular points of contact, a general conclusion seems inescapable. Heywood's dramatic work as a whole is in debt to the farces, and his knowledge of them was considerably greater than his proved debts would suggest.

To begin with, his whole conception of drama--and it is in this that he differs most notably from his contemporaries --leans towards that of the French playwrights. This is, of course, true of the three plays--John, Pardoner, Four PP --which are drawn from French originals or obviously 'cast in the French mould'; but some of the essential characteristics which they share with farce belong to Heywood's theatre as a whole. Of these the most striking is the intention rather to entertain than to instruct. It is true that Love, Four PP and Witty dose with moral or religious homilies, and it may be that Merry Report ( Weather) and No Lover nor Loved ( Love) owe something to the comic tradition of the moralities;1 but all Heywood's theatrical pieces are built upon an incident, a jest or a dispute, and are organically distinct, as

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1
According to Chambers, however, 'the character of the Vice is derived from that of the domestic fool or jester' ( Mediaeval stage, ii. 204).

-97-

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