John Heywood Additional Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

John Heywood, an English dramatist and poet, was possibly born in London. A staunch, but by no means pedantic Catholic, the events of his life would largely be determined by his commitment to that faith. He was friends with Sir Thomas More, and was familiar at court with Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Mary I. Once Elizabeth I came to power in 1558, he fell out of favor. The Protestantism advocated during that reign left little room for Heywood’s outspoken theological position. His beliefs were clearly illustrated in his long poem The Spider and the Fly, where he cast Roman Catholics as flies and Protestants as the spiders with Queen Mary as the heroine destroying the spiders under the direction of a benevolent God. As a result of this change in the state of religion in England, Heywood moved to Belgium where he spent the rest of his life. This move, while not legislated, allowed him to continue to practice his faith more freely.

Heywood began his artistic career as a paid singer at court, working as a servant to King Henry VIII. During this time, he was designated one of the king’s singers and later was a member of the royal choir. His career began to show signs of dramatic emphasis with his focus on Interludes. The Interlude form developed out of medieval morality plays and became the impetus for much of what would later be termed Comedy in the Elizabethan theater tradition. The form was short, appearing during breaks in larger works. While they often contained lessons that were socially significant, they were most often...

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