(c. 1497-1578)
John Heywood was an epigrammatist, dramatist, poet, and writer of inter­ludes, music, and entertainments for the early Tudors. Nothing is known about Heywood s birth or parentage, but he was probably born in London around 1497. His appointments at court ranged from a singer to a "player of the virginals" to a life appointment as steward to the royal chamber. Part of Thomas More s* circle, Heywood married Eliza Rastell, More s niece. Heywood s Cath­olic sensibilities led him to participate in a plot to overthrow Archbishop Thomas Cranmer,* for which he was imprisoned in 1543. In 1544 Heywood recanted. Heywood was a favorite of Mary I*; however, with the accession of Elizabeth I, in 1558, he resigned his position as steward. By 1564 Heywood and his son Ellis, English Catholics, left England for France. Thomas Wilson visited Hey­wood in 1574 and brought forgiveness from Queen Elizabeth* and permission to return to England. Heywood never returned. By 1576 he was living in Ant­werp. More religious upheaval removed Heywood to Louvain, where he died sometime in 1578.
Deemed a mad, merry wit, Heywood experimented with comic subplots and current events and ideas and reflected real people in his work. His interludes include The Four P's (c. 1545), a farce about a Palmer, Pardoner, and Pothecary, who ask a Pedler to judge which of them is most important, and The Play of the Weather (1533), which considers the problem of the ruler of state through the guise of Jupiter, who asks his subjects to petition him to establish a certain weather pattern. Other works include A Dialogue Conteinying the Nomber in Effect of All the Proverbes in the Englishe Tongue (1546) and a long allegorical poem, The Spider and the Flie, infused with mock-heroic wit, published in 1556 but begun twenty years earlier. Heywood himself identifies Queen Mary as the Maid in the poem who solves problems between the Protestant spiders and Catholic flies by squashing the spiders and removing their webs.
R. C. Johnson, John Heywood, 1970.
Megan S. Lloyd

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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