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  • “What Citadels, what turrets, and what towers”: Mapping the Tower of London in Thomas Heywood’s Lord Mayors’ Shows
  • Kristen Deiter (bio)

Although early modern English monarchs, especially Elizabeth I, James I, and Charles I, promoted a “royal ideology” that the Tower of London, a royal castle, represented sovereign power and authority, playwrights persistently constructed the Tower on stage in ways that challenged that ideology. They dramatized oppositional scenarios such as the sovereigns’ prisoners escaping or being released from the Tower, monarchs’ imprisonment in the Tower, subjects dictating how the sovereigns use the Tower, royal misuse of the Tower to justify rebellion or revenge, and the Tower’s involvement in rebellions against monarchs.1 Of the twenty-four extant English history plays that represented the Tower from 1579 to ca. 1634—all of which portrayed it as a symbol of opposition to the Crown—Thomas Heywood composed four. To put this number into perspective, of the sixteen known authors of these “Tower plays,” only Shakespeare surpassed Heywood in the number written; collectively, Shakespeare and Heywood wrote over 40 percent of the Tower plays.2 Heywood authored one-sixth of them—four times the number that most of the known Tower playwrights wrote. He was among the boldest in actually dramatizing an act of resistance to royal injustice at the Tower, and he alone personified the Tower itself as encouraging such resistance.3 This quantitative and qualitative evidence demonstrates Heywood’s strong voice of opposition to the royal ideology of the Tower in the 1590s, when his Tower plays were originally staged.

The Tower plays were part of a larger discourse of oppositional representations of the Tower. Other early-seventeenth-century artists portrayed the Tower as resistant to the Crown in a portrait, an illustrated broadside ballad, and a delftware plate, and some authors of Tower plays, [End Page 473] including Michael Drayton as well as Heywood, also represented the Tower as antagonistic to the Crown in other literary genres.4 For instance, in the early 1630s, Heywood published two prose works that further reveal his fascination with criticizing royal injustice at the Tower. In 1631 he published Englands Elizabeth: Her Life and Trovbles, During Her Minoritie, from the Cradle to the Crowne, a popular historical narrative that was reissued in 1632.5 In it, Heywood very sympathetically, and with great emphasis on the Tower, both throughout the text and in marginal glosses, chronicles the histories of Anne Boleyn, Lady Jane Grey, and the future Elizabeth I at the Tower, along with many others who were executed there in the early Tudor period. The book concludes with Elizabeth’s prayer of thanksgiving for her deliverance from imprisonment in the Tower, as she departs the Tower to begin her coronation procession, and finally, with the Tower’s ordnance going off.6 As in Heywood’s 1604–05 Tower play If You Know Not Me, You Know No Bodie, or The Troubles of Queene Elizabeth, here he laments victims of Tudor tyranny at the Tower. Also in 1631, Heywood reissued Sir Richard Barckley’s commonplace book, A Discourse of the Felicitie of Man, which Barckley had dedicated to the Queen in 1598.7 Heywood, however, replaced this royal dedication with an address “in very respectful and laudatory terms to the disgraced Robert Carre [or Carr], Earl of Somerset,”8 who had been convicted of the 1613 murder of Sir Thomas Overbury, by poisoning, in the Tower. Carr, King James’s “chief royal favourite” since 1607, had engaged in an adulterous affair with Frances Howard, wife of the Earl of Essex, as the spouses sought a divorce. James imprisoned Overbury, Carr’s secretary, for refusing an overseas assignment devised to prevent Overbury from disclosing knowledge of Carr’s affair.9 In 1615 Carr was imprisoned in the Tower for Overbury’s murder, and Howard soon joined him. Both were tried and sentenced to death in 1616 but released from the Tower in 1622, “caus[ing] public outrage, some even implying that the king was implicated in the murder.”10 Heywood was personally connected to these events through his friend, Sir William Helwysse, whose father, “Gervase [or Jervaise] Helwysse [or Helwisse], Lieutenant of the Tower...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 473-503
Launched on MUSE
2014-02-26
Open Access
No
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