Love's Masterpiece

Thomas Heywood (<1640)

Historical Records

Stationers’ Register

22 May, 1640 (S.R. I, IV.512 CLIO):

John Okes. Entred for his Copie vnder the hands of doctor WYKES and master ffetherston warden a Comedie called Loues Masterpeece by THOMAS HAYWOOD. vjd.

Theatrical Provenance


Probable Genre(s)


Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

Paul Merchant lists the play as one of 'Heywood's likely or known domestic or marital dramas', but nothing is known of its narrative or of any sources (Merchant 30).

References to the Play

None known.

Critical Commentary

David Erskine Baker noted the play in the 1782 edition of Biographia Dramatica, commenting that it was a comedy entered into the Stationers’ Register 'but, perhaps, never printed' (Baker [1782] 203). In the 1812 edition, Love’s Masterpiece, and Cupid and Psyche, were listed as two of Heywood’s unpublished dramas (Baker 1 [1812], 333), in a slightly expanded entry on the dramatist.

In 1815, C. W. Dilke suggested that both the ‘unpublished’ plays listed in the Biographia Dramatica referred in fact to Love’s Mistress, Heywood’s play of c. 1634 which was performed three times ‘before their majesties, within the space of eight days’. He notes that Love’s Mistress was printed in a second edition in 1640, ‘the date of the entry of “Love’s Masterpiece” on the Stationers’ Book, a title equally suited to it’ (Dilke 6. 104).

Dilke shared the view with John Payne Collier, who also commented, in a footnote in his edition of R. Dodsley’s A select collection of Old Plays, that Love’s Masterpiece and Cupid and Psyche were ‘probably … only one piece, which Heywood himself calls Love’s Mistress, or Cupid and Psyche’ (Collier 7. 222).

But later, Arthur Melville Clark was to argue that the play titled Love’s Masterpiece and entered in the Stationers’ Register ‘cannot be the same as Love’s Mistress’, as Dilke and Collier had suggested (Clark 129, fn. 3). G. E. Bentley agreed. He said that while ‘the similarity of the titles encourage conjecture’, the likelihood of the two titles referring to the same play was ‘dubious’, as Love’s Mistress had already ‘been duly licensed to John Crouch, 30 September 1635, and published by him in 1636 and again in 1640’. He thought that the 1640 Stationers’ Register entry ‘is much more likely to record another of Heywood’s many lost plays’ (Bentley 4. 579).

Where mentioned (very rarely), it is now treated as a separate play --– a ‘lost comedy’ (Merchant 30).

For What It's Worth

If entry in the Stationers’ Register can be read as indicative of date of composition, then Love’s Masterpiece may have been one of the last dramatic works written by Heywood, before he died in 1641. Heywood wrote for a variety of companies over his professional career, but his plays were performed by Queen Henrietta’s Men at the Cockpit on Drury Lane and the King’s Men at the Globe and Blackfriars towards the mid-1630s. In 1637 Queen Henrietta’s Men were broken (upon which a new troupe under the same name began performing at Salisbury Court) and their place at the Cockpit was taken by Beeston’s Boys. But Love’s Masterpiece is not one of the forty-five plays protected by the Lord Chamberlain for exclusive performance by the troupe in 1639. This is not to say that the play did not belong to the repertory, but if it was written for the Cockpit, it might suggest that the company did not consider it an asset which warranted formal protection. Heywood had written A Challenge for Beauty for the King’s Men in 1634-5, and collaborated with Richard Brome on The Late Lancashire Witches for them around the same time, so perhaps the play was for the Globe or Blackfriars. On the other hand, entry in the Stationers’ Register need not have followed closely on composition (or first performance), and it may be that the play is one of the ‘two hundred’ or so in which Heywood claimed to have had ‘an entire hand’, or at least a ‘main finger’, dating from any point in his long career in theatre.

Works Cited

Baker, David Erskine. Biographia Dramatica. 2 vols. London, 1782.

Baker, David Erskine; Reed, Isaac.; Jones, Stephen. Biographia Dramatica. 3 vols. London, 1812.

Clark, Arthur Melville. Thomas Heywood: playwright and miscellanist. Oxford: Blackwell, 1931.

Collier, John Payne; Dodsley, Robert. (eds). A selection of old plays. London: Septimus Prowett, 1825-7.

Dilke, C.W. (ed.). Old English Plays. 6 vols. London: Whittingham and Rowland, 1814-15.

Merchant, Paul. Thomas Heywood: Three Marriage Plays. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1996.

Site created and maintained by Eleanor Collins, OUP; updated 12 October 2013.