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Fair Maid of the West


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AT: A Girl Worth Gold A: Thomas Heywood Pf:c.1607 Pb: 1631 G: Romantic com. in 5 acts; blank verse and prose S: Plymouth and Fowey, England; Fayal in the Azores, Morocco, and at sea, 1597 C: 21m, 2f, extrasBess Bridges, barmaid of the Castle Inn in Plymouth, is the toast of the town. She loves only Spencer, who is about to sail to the Azores to plunder Spanish wealth. Spencer is involved in a tavern brawl and, defending Bess's honour, kills a quarrelsome customer. Now forced to fly the country, he gives Bess the Windmill Tavern at Fowey. Here Bess is once again a great success. Her beloved Spencer, however, is mortally wounded in Fayal and sends his friend Goodlack to seek out Bess and bestow on her his wealth, provided she has remained virtuous. Goodlack reports to the faithful Bess that Spencer has died in the Azores, and she buys and equips a ship to fetch back his body, taking charge as captain. On arrival in the Azores she finds the Spanish back in charge and wages war on them, believing that they have desecrated her lover's body. Spencer has however survived his wound and has been captured by some Spaniards. Bess takes their ship, but when Spencer appears amongst the prisoners, she thinks he is a ghost. Putting in to Morocco to take on water, Bess is courted by the King of Fez. She dispenses justice, is reunited with Spencer, and they marry. The King throws a sumptuous wedding banquet for the happy couple.

AT: A Girl Worth Gold A: Thomas Heywood Pf:c.1607 Pb: 1631 G: Romantic com. in 5 acts; blank verse and prose S: Plymouth and Fowey, England; Fayal in the Azores, Morocco, and at sea, 1597 C: 21m, 2f, extras

Heywood discovered a popular mix of ingredients for this piece: confident patriotism, an honourable hero, and a strong female adventurer with obvious echoes of Elizabeth I. Part 2, written in the wake of the success of Part 1 and generally accounted a much weaker play, sees the couple suffering under the King of Fez, enduring shipwreck and separation, until after many more adventures they are reunited in Florence.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Authors

Thomas Heywood (c. 1574—1641) playwright and poet


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