Definitions

killed with kindness

A Woman Killed with Kindness

A Woman Killed with Kindness is an early seventeenth-century stage play, a tragedy written by Thomas Heywood. Acted in 1603 and first published in 1607, the play has generally been considered Heywood's masterpiece, and has received the most critical attention among Heywood's works. Along with the anonymous Arden of Faversham, Heywood's play has been regarded as the apex of Elizabethan drama's achievement in the sub-genre of bourgeois or domestic tragedy.

The play was originally performed by Queen Anne's Men, the company for which Heywood acted and wrote in the early Jacobean era. The records of Philip Henslowe show that Heywood was paid £6 for the play in February and March of 1603. The 1607 quarto was printed by William Jaggard for the bookseller John Hodgets. A second quarto was issued in 1617 by William Jaggard's son Isaac Jaggard.

The plot of Heywood's play derives from an Italian novel by Illicini, which was translated into English and published in The Palace of Pleasure by William Painter (1566).

The play tells the story of a married couple, Master Frankford and his wife Anne. Anne is caught in adultery with her lover, Wendoll; her husband punishes her not with death but with ostracism. In the end she pines away and dies, "killed with kindness."

The adulterous wife Anne Frankford is contrasted with the virtuous Susan Mountford. In the play's subplot, Sir Charles Mountford attempts to prostitute his sister Susan to Sir Francis Acton (Anne Frankford's brother), to whom he is deeply in debt. Susan, however, retains her virtue. In the end Acton discharges the debts of Mountford and marries Susan.

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