The facts of Thomas Heywood’s early life are scarce. Heywood was apparently born sometime in 1573 to the Reverend Robert Heywood and his wife, Elizabeth. Probably a Cambridge graduate, Robert Heywood migrated before Thomas’s birth from Cheshire to Lincolnshire, where he served as rector first at Rothwell and then at Ashby-cum-Fenley. Thomas was one of eleven children; there is, however, no record of any dealings between him and his siblings after he arrived in London.
The Heywoods were, it would seem, a family of gentility, evidenced by the application of Heywood’s Uncle Edmund for a grant of arms. At sixteen or seventeen, Heywood entered Emmanuel College, Cambridge, a stronghold of Puritanism, which may explain the moral thrust in much of his writing, particularly in the pamphlets of his later career. His college work ended early, however, when his father died in 1593. At this point, Heywood, like so many young men with talent and a bit of learning but no degree, accepted the challenges of the London stage and began his career as an actor.
In 1593, Heywood was hired by Philip Henslowe as an actor for the Admiral’s Men. Heywood, however, turned his hand very quickly to writing, sharing in the revision of works being done by the company. Among these may have been, in 1599, The Siege of London.
Around 1600, Heywood began writing for Derby’s Men, although the specifics of his relationship with this company are relatively obscure. Edward IV was produced by Derby’s Men before Heywood broke the connection in 1601, when he became an actor-sharer with Worcester’s Men and entered the service of Queen Anne, under the auspices of Henslowe. This new association connected Heywood with Henry Chettle, Thomas Dekker, Wentworth Smith, and John Webster. By this time, as A. M. Clark notes, Heywood was financially well off as a result of his hasty writing, which, according to Clark, was “fatal to [the] literary quality” of his scripts but which...
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