Dramatists, Playing Companies, and Repertories. Actor, Poet, Playwright, Sharer … Rival? Shakespeare and Heywood, 1603–4

Clare Smout, Tom Rutter (contributing editor)


Much attention has been paid over the years to the so-called Poetomachia of 1599-1602. However, this overt flyting has occluded our sense of any competition between the two older, more established, commercially successful actor-playwrights, Shakespeare and Heywood. Indeed, Heywood’s position as sharer in Worcester’s / Queen’s Men and his many years spent writing for the same group of actors has been virtually ignored, while Shakespeare is regularly feted as unique in his combination of roles.

This paper opens by drawing attention to the parallels between the two dramatists and emphasising the recognition Heywood received in his own time.

It then looks in detail at A Woman Killed with Kindness, Measure for Measure, and the circumstances of their composition, using these as a case study to argue that, in this instance at least, Shakespeare appears to have been both aware of and influenced by his contemporary’s work.

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