The Patient Wife and the Erring Husband: Thomas Heywood's Domestic World
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The Patient Wife and the Erring Husband explores the themes and characterizations found in Thomas Heywood's How a Man May Chuse a Good Wife from a Bad. A complete understanding of the author's thematic and moral intentions is aided by a knowledge of his progression as a career playwright. The moral scheme of the play itself is best understood through the actions and personalities of its main characters as well as how those characters translate into the daily life of an Elizabethan playgoer. Believed to be the first play of its kind, How a Man May Chuse a Good Wife from a Bad is the premier example of domestic drama in the period, influencing many subsequent plays which focus on the domestic relationship. Heywood formulates a didactic message for his audience through both lauding and condemning the actions of his characters. By placing the good wife and the bad wife in opposition to one another and forcing the husband to realize which is better, Heywood's characters play out a fantasy which morally instructs the audience. By placing positive and negative examples of behavior in conjunction with one another, Heywood attempts to deliver clear messages about domesticity, perception and salvation. The serious tones of the play are undercut by the comedy found throughout which allows Heywood to accomplish his intention of delivering instruction through delighting his audience.