The Legacy of the will of Henry VIII in John Webster’s Sir Thomas Wyatt and Thomas Heywood’s If You Know Not Me, You Know Nobody

Steven Veerapen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A collaborative play by Webster, Dekker, Heywood, Smith, and Chettle — likely pieced together from the lost play Lady Jane and a putative sequel, Sir Thomas Wyatt (1601-2, printed in 1607, STC 6537) — reflects on the period of political instability following the deaths, in relatively rapid succession, of Henry VIII and Edward VI (Hoy 1980: 311).[1] This was an instability which was in no small part exacerbated by the divergence between Henry’s will and Edward’s wishes with regard to the bequest of the kingdom. Similarly, Heywood’s own 1604-5 play, If You Know Not Me, You Know Nobody (Part I) (printed 1605, STC 13328), made use of roughly contemporaneous material whilst chronicling the reign of the infamous Mary I and her fraught relationship with the popular, younger Elizabeth. Although critics have been hesitant to identify the hand of Heywood in Sir Thomas Wyatt, both plays also share discrete passages of stark similarity, notably in the accession speeches of Mary (Hoy 1980: 333-5). Further, a more general dedication to theatrical pageantry is evident in both plays’ depictions of royal ceremonial. This is, of course, unsurprising, given that both Sir Thomas Wyatt and If You Know Not Me dramatize the downfall of one sovereign and the accession of another, each complicated by the lack of a direct heir.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of the Northern Renaissance
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • John Webster
  • Sir Thomas Wyatt
  • Thomas Heywood
  • Henry VIII
  • wills
  • plays
  • english literature

Cite this