A Woman Killed With Kindness, a critically acclaimed Renaissance drama by the renowned playwright Thomas Heywood, centers around the marriage between John Frankford and his new wife, Anne. The couple have a seemingly perfect marriage, until Frankford invites Wendoll into their home to stay as his companion. Increasingly ignoring his wife, to spend time with Wendoll, Frankford is unaware of his new companion’s growing attachment to Anne. Anne is overwhelmed and seduced by Wendoll, against her better judgement. However their affair is brought to light by Frankford’s faithful servant, Nicholas, and the Frankford household is in disarray. Appalled and angered by his wife’s betrayal, Frankford chooses to punish her by shunning her and refusing to acknowledge or pay any attention to his wife. Anne’s plight is contrasted in the play with the virtuous Susan Mountford, sister of Sir Charles Mountford. After Charles unintentionally kills the servants of Sir Francis Acton (Anne’s brother) in a heated argument, Charles goes to prison. He manages to buy his way out of jail but, without a penny to his name, foolishly accepts an overly generous sum of money from an untrustworthy and false friend. When Charles cannot repay the debt, he is plunged back into prison once more, only to be rescued by Francis. In desperation, Charles tries to offer his sister to Francis, to pay off his debt to him. However, Susan’s virtue remains intact and Francis proves his good character by discharging Charles’ debts and marrying Susan of his own free will. However, Anne’s fate is not so favorable. Alone and distraught, she starves herself in misery until, at death’s door, Frankford reunites with his wife as she dies in his arms.
Hotly debated and frequently re-envisioned, Heywood’s tragedy explores marriage, women’s sexuality and social position in the seventeenth century.
A Woman Killed with Kindness guide sections