A Woman Killed With Kindness by Thomas Heywood

Table of Contents

Act 1

Master Frankford and his wife Anne Frankford are celebrating their marriage ceremony along with a number of nears and dears. Some of them compliment and praise the beauty and devoutness of Anne to her husband and consider their couple to be the perfect combination.

They sing and dance. Mr and Mrs Frankford leave. Sir Francis Acton, who is the brother of Anne and Sir Charles Mountford, who is a country squire, decides to arrange a match of hawks on the next day. They bet for one hundred pounds.

In the yard, the servants are also celebrating and enjoying the ceremony. Jack Slime and Brickbat, who are countrymen, compare their status with that of Frankford and then pity their fortune.

Jenkin condemns their conversation, calling such a comparison to be a sin. They fall into an argument and ultimately resolve the matter and start rejoicing again.

The next day match of the hawks takes place. Acton’s hawk is defeated but instead of accepting his defeat, Acton accuses the hawk of Charles and calls it a cheater. A heated argument takes place that becomes a quarrel.

The party divides into two groups. Charles’ group is victorious, however, Charles, in his rage, happens to murder two of the Acton’s men. All flee away except for Charles, who repents over his deed. Susan, the sister of Charles appears and condemns the bloody deed accomplished by her brother.

She asks Charles to run away so as to save himself from being caught, but he refuses to say that he cannot leave his sister alone. Sheriff appears to them along with officers. Sir Charles is arrested and put behind the bars.

Act 2

Sir Frankford at his home feels joyful for everything needed for a happy life and in particular, he has “a fair, a chaste and loving wife.” As he is sunken into thoughts, Nicholas, his servant enters, telling him about the arrival of Wendoll.

Sir Frankford is of high thoughts for Wendoll. He considers Wendoll to be an ideal gentleman. Wendoll enters and Sir Frankford forces him to live with them. Nicholas, somehow, has not a good opinion for Wendoll and calls him a villain before other servants.

Meanwhile, Sir Charles has to spend all his fortune in order to gain his liberty from jail. As he is released, he encounters with Shafton, a wicked person, who desires to seize his only remaining house. He offers Charles 300 pounds in order to use it a tool for taking away his house later.

Wendoll falls in love with Anne. He becomes double-minded. He loves Anne but does not like to deceive his honest friend. First, he gives up the idea of loving her, but on meeting her in alone, he is overwhelmed by passions and thus confesses his love to her.

Anne first resists bitterly but could not maintain the resistance for long. She is melted by his sweets talks and finally accepts his proposal. Just then Nicholas comes and abuses Wendoll for his nasty intentions and what he is doing, but Wendoll ignoring Nicholas, goes away with Anne and to commit adultery. Nicholas expresses his extreme hatred for Wendoll and decides to spy them and expose their blunder to Sir Frankford.

Act 3

Sir Charles and Susan are mourning over their lost fortune and the prevailing condition. Just then enters Shafton with Sergeant. He offers to buy Charles house for the money that he has lent to him. Charles refuses the offer and Shafton haves him arrested by the Sergeant.

Susan becomes sorrowful. Now enters Acton with Malby. Ridiculing the condition of Charles, he decides to seduce his sister as revenge, but on seeing her he falls in love with her. Susan runs away. Acton expresses his passionate love for her to Malby.

In the house of Sir Frankford, Nicholas tells his master (Sir Frankford) about the affair of Anne and Wendoll. Sir Frankford does not believe him and decides to discover by himself and says, “Till I know all, I’ll nothing seem to know.”

After dinner, Frankford, Anne, Wendoll and Cranwell (a friend of Sir Frankford) play cards and Frankford get some glimpses of their glimpses by their talks and actions. Sir Frankford decides to expose the bitter reality by some trick.

Meanwhile, Susan goes to her Uncle, Old Frankford and begs him to help her brother but he refuses. She asks for help from other men as well, but they, like Susan’s Uncle, refuse to help her.

Acton offers to help her by giving her a bag of gold, but she rejects his offer, as she considers him to be her foe. Acton becomes well aware of the fact that Susan won’t accept him in any way and sighs,

“The more she hates me and disdains my love,
The more I am rapt in the admiration
Of her divine and chaste perfections.”

He ultimately decides to free her brother anonymously.

Act 4

Sir Charles is depressed and laments over his imprisonment. He curses his friends and relatives for being disloyal to him. Jailer enters and announces his liberty telling Charles that his debts are clear. Charles feels extremely happy.

Susan comes. Both wonder who has cleared off his debts and finally ask jailer who tells the name of Acton. Charles is stunned. He desires to be put back in jail again but the jailer refuses. Susan tells him that Acton is in love with her and that’s why he has freed him.

Meanwhile, in the house of Frankford, Nicholas and Sir Frankford talk about the plan to expose the affair of his wife and Wendoll. It is the time of supper. As pre-planned, Nicholas enters with a letter in hand.

Frankford pretends to be very troublesome and tells others that he has to leave at once as he has some urgent work and starts preparing for the journey.

Wendoll is quite happy about it. Frankford goes away with Nicholas. Little later, Cranwell (the friend of Frankford) also leaves. Wendoll exclaims, “How business, time and hours, all gracious prove.” But Anne is quite unhappy over the affair.

She says, “We pale offenders are still full of fear, every suspicious eye brings danger near.” Both of them go to the private chamber for love-making.

In another part of the house, servants express their views on the affair of Anne and Frankford. They pray for the retention of chastity and purity of their mistress (Anne). Anne orders the serving-man to lock-up all the doors and gates of their house.

Outside the house, Frankford and Nicholas are waiting for the right time to enter the house. Frankford has duplicate keys, that he has had made by Nicholas after making the plan.

When lights are off, Nicholas and Frankford enter silently and witness Anne and Wendoll locked in an embrace. Wendoll, seeing Frankford, tries to run away. Frankford chases him with a sword in his hand. However, a maid stops him. Frankford curses Wendoll, “Go, villain; and my wrongs sit on thy soul.”

Anne appears filled with deep embarrassment and being well aware of her grave sin, she requests Frankford to kill her, “I am ready for my grave.” Frankford brings his children, and tell her about the abuse that she inflicted on him and his children because of her sin.

Anne again desires to be killed. However, Frankford considers death to be too little punishment for her sin and declares that she should live in seclusion, seven miles away in one of his manor along with all her things and servants. He also says that he will never see her face again.

Act 5

Sir Charles and his sister Susan are standing in front of the house of Acton. Susan being unaware of their purpose of going there is confused. Charles reveals that he wants to give her off in marriage to Acton so as to clear his debts.

Susan is quite displeased with his decision and disagrees rigorously. However, when he presses her hard, she finally agrees but sighs, “Before his unchaste thoughts shall seize on me, ‘tis here shall my imprisoned soul set free.”

Acton appears; Charles bitterly offers his sister as the payment of his debts and gives Acton full freedom to do whatever he wishes with him or his sister.

However, Acton says, “I cannot be so cruel to a lady I love so clearly….I seal you my dear brother, her my wife.” Susan says, “I will yield to face and learn to love where I till now did hate.”

Meanwhile, Frankford, in his house, orders Nicholas to take away everything that reminds him of his wife. He sees a flute that was the token of their marriage and asks Nicholas to give it to her and adds, “Now nothing’s left of her and hers I am at once bereft.”

Anne starts her journey to her new house where she is supposed to live her sorrowful life in seclusion and solitude. She is tears and sighs, “my bed a grave!” Nicolas comes with the flute.

Anne on seeing the flute, laments over her past but she is of high view for Frankford, “he is kind and ever was.” Wendoll appears and on seeing Anne, repents a lot saying, “I have divorced the turtles that ever lived together.”

Anne asks her servants to break the flute, as she is not worthy of holding it and decides that now she has to die of starvation. When Wendoll tries to come near to her, she cries, “O, for God’s sake, fly!”

All go away except for Wendoll, who keeps saying, “I must now go wander, like a Cain.” Acton, Charles, Cranwell, Malby, and Susan come to see Anne and outside her house inquire about her condition. Acton curses Wendoll, Twas his tongue that did corrupt her.”

He also praises Frankford for being so kind to Anne in terms of punishment. Jenkin and Cicely come and tell them that Anne is about to die of starvation. All of them go to see Anne.

Anne expresses her desire to see Frankford before dying. She is told that Frankford is coming to see her. Frankford enters and seeing her condition, forgives her and wishes to die with her.

Both husband and wife locked in an embrace. Anne dies in his arms. Frankford, in despair, says, “She’s dead and a cold grave must be her nuptial bed.” Others comfort him. Frankford declares that her epitaphs will have, in golden letters, inscribed,

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