The Fair Maid of the West, Parts I and II

The Fair Maid of the West, Parts I and II

The Fair Maid of the West, Parts I and II

The Fair Maid of the West, Parts I and II

Excerpt

In the notes to his Specimens of English Dramatic Poets,Charles Lamb, with a typical gentleness of temper, spoke of Thomas Heywood as "a sort of prose Shakspeare." However much (or little) the comparison tells us about Heywood's literary achievement, it is in another respect apt, for Heywood's and Shakespeare's careers were similar in a remarkable number of external particulars. Neither was a Londoner by birth, but at very nearly the same time both came to the city as young men to live by the theater. Both sought literary reputations in non-dramatic work, but both found their securest places in a threefold relationship with the dramatic world, as actors, playwrights, and sharers in the management of theatrical companies. Both were professionals in the best sense of that term; they knew their art and were quietly proud of their ability to practice it, although Heywood, as far as we know, was less troubled than Shakespeare in this regard by aspirations to gentility. Shakespeare enjoyed the greater contemporary reputation, but Heywood lived longer and wrote more. If at last we must conclude that as a playwright Heywood was nowhere near Shakespeare's class, that hard judgment does not condemn him out of hand. Heywood appears to have known his limitations and rarely, if ever, to have strained beyond them; he may have been, as T. S. Eliot remarked, "a facile and sometimes felicitous purveyor of goods to the popular taste," but that "sometimes felicitous" deserves respect, covering, as it does, The English Traveller and A Woman Killed with Kindness.

Heywood was born about 1574 in Lincolnshire, probably a clergyman's son. He seems to have spent perhaps two years at Cambridge (1591-1593) but to have left without a degree. His first substantial . . .

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