Ancient Theatre 
Medieval Theatre
16th Century
17th Century
18th Century
19th Century
20th Century

Email Us

JOHN HEYWOOD (1497-1580)

THE most important writer of interludes, at the period when they were merging into comedy, was John Heywood, choir boy at the Chapel Royal in London, and at one time connected with the production of plays at the court of Henry VII. He was a loyal Catholic; and after the death of Mary, being out of sympathy with the strong Protestant movement of the day, he journeyed to the continent and died there. Although entirely faithful to his Church, Heywood did not hesitate to criticize its weaknesses. In his plays he broke away from the conventional tone and allegorical manner of the morality, and treated his themes in an ironical, good-humored style. His titles alone are diverting. The Merry Play between Johan the Husband, Tyb his Wife, and Sir John the Priest is a farce showing how Tyb and the Priest discipline the Husband by making him sit by, fasting, while they devour the pie which has been cooked for dinner. The Play of the Pardoner and the Friar is a lively debate between two churchmen each of whom tries to out-argue and out-preach the other. The most famous of Heywood's interludes is the comic piece The Four P's, written about 1530. It is in racy verse, has excellent dialogue, a witty situation, and no ulterior purpose, unless it be to expose in an amusing manner the weakness of both religionists and medicine men. There is nothing strikingly original in the plot, and long passages are taken bodily from Chaucer; but it offers a good illustration of the extraordinary advance the interlude had made since the days of Everyman and The Castle of Perseverance.

This article was originally published in A Short History of the Drama. Martha Fletcher Bellinger. New York: Henry Holt & Company, 1927. p. 185.


© 2002 TheatreDatabase.com