A woman struggles to survive, and then struggles to die, in Heywood’s startling domestic tragedy about the possession and punishment of women, probably first published in 1607.
The marriage of John Frankford, a middling country gentleman, and his wife Anne is comfortable, if uneventful, until he gives his friend Wendoll the free use of his table and purse. Wendoll takes even more than was offered, and confesses his desperate love to Anne, who takes pity on him, and they commit adultery. When they are discovered John banishes his wife to a distant manor, forbidding her to see their two children, and it is in the comfort of her exile that she will starve herself to death. In the subplot, a woman devoted to her brother is offered as payment for his debts.
Usually considered to be a domestic tragedy, A Woman Killed with Kindness is complex in its didacticism, as Heywood explores the boundaries of marital punishment, and the moral weight of mercy.