Most details of Thomas Heywood's life are ambiguous. He was most likely born in 1573 or 1574, although exactly when and where are a mystery (Lincolnshire is the most likely location) . Some documents suggest that he attended the University of Cambridge, and therefore might have been in the company of the "University Wits," but this cannot be verified.
However, thanks to Philip Henslowe's diary, historians know that Thomas Heywood joined Henslowe's theatrical company the Admiral's Men by 1598. Early on he became involved in playwriting for the company, and in his preface to The English Traveller (1633) he writes that he had "an entire hand or at least a maine finger in 220 plays." Despite his claims at a prolific career, only 23 plays and eight masques have survived. Generally, Heywood wrote domestic plays, whether tragedy or comedy. A Woman Killed With Kindness (1603) is considered to be his masterpiece. Throughout his career as a writer, evidence suggests that Heywood also worked as an actor.
As a writer in the Jacobean period, Heywood stretched beyond the typical genres of comedy and tragedy and explored romances and masques. He wrote for both the playhouse and the court--his Love's Mistress or the Queen's Masque (1634) was reportedly enjoyed by King Charles, so much so that he saw it several times within one week. Heywood was known for his plays, masques, poetry, and prose: the 18th century writer Charles Lamb called him a "prose Shakespeare." His most significant and enduring work is An Apology for Actors (1612), a treatise that argues for the dignity and necessity of the actor's craft.
Just as much of Thomas Heywood's life remains a mystery, so is his death. While his exact death date is not known, he was buried in St. James Church in London on August 16, 1641.
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