Thomas Killigrew

Thomas Killigrew

Infobox Writer
name = Thomas Killigrew

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birthdate = birth date|df=yes|1612|02|07
birthplace = England
deathdate = death date and age|df=yes|1683|03|19|1612|02|07
deathplace = Whitehall, London, England
occupation = Dramatist
nationality = British
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children =
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Thomas Killigrew (7 February 1612 – 19 March 1683), was an English dramatist and theatre manager. He was a witty, dissolute figure at the court of King Charles II of England.

Life and Work

Killigrew was one of twelve children of Sir Robert Killigrew, of Hanworth, a courtier to James I and his wife Mary née Woodhouse; he became a page to King Charles I at about the age of thirteen. According to Samuel Pepys, the boy Killigrew used to volunteer as an extra, or "devil," at the Red Bull Theatre, so that he could see the plays for free. The young Killigrew had limited formal education; the Court and the playhouse were his schoolroom.

Before the English Civil War, Killigrew wrote several plays—tragicomedies like "Claracilla" and "The Prisoners", as well as his most popular play, "The Parson's Wedding" (1637). The latter play has been criticized for its coarse humor; but it also contains prose readings of John Donne's poetry to pique a literate audience. [William R. Keast, "Killigrew's Use of Donne in "The Parson's Wedding"," Modern Language Review, 45 (1950), pp. 512-15.]

Killigrew was present at the exorcism of the possessed nuns of Loudun. In 1635 he left a skeptical account of the proceedings. [*Aldous Huxley, "The Devils of Loudun" (Harper 1952).]

A Royalist and Roman Catholic, Killigrew followed Prince Charles (the future Charles II) into exile in 1647. In the years 1649-51 he was in Paris, Geneva, and Rome, and in the later year was appointed Charles' representative in Venice. (It has been said that Killigrew wrote each of his plays in a different city; "Thomaso, or the Wanderer" was written in Madrid.)

At the Restoration in 1660, Killigrew returned to England along with many other Royalist exiles. Charles rewarded his loyalty by making him Groom of the Bedchamber and Chamberlain to Queen Catherine. He had a reputation as a wit; in his famous Diary, Samuel Pepys calls Killigrew the King's fool and jester, with the power to mock and revile even the most prominent without penalty (Feb. 12, 1668).

Along with Sir William Davenant, he was given a royal warrant to form a theatre company in 1660—which gave Killigrew a key role in the revival of English drama. Killigrew beat Davenant to a debut, at Gibbon's Tennis Court in Clare Market, with the new King's Company. Its original members were Michael Mohun, William Wintershall, Robert Shatterell, William Cartwright, Walter Clun, Charles Hart and Nicholas Burt. They played for a time at the old Red Bull Theatre, but in 1663 the company moved to the new Theatre Royal in Drury Lane. (Unfortunately, Killigrew gained a reputation as an incompetent manager; he was constantly in disputes with his actors and had to bribe his stars to keep working for him.) Killigrew staged plays by Aphra Behn, John Dryden, William Wycherley...and Thomas Killigrew, as well as revivals of Beaumont and Fletcher. Having inherited the rights and repertory of the old King's Men, the King's Company performed many of Shakespeare's works, in the rewritten forms that were so popular at the time and so disparaged later (like "King Lear" with a happy ending). Two Killigrew productions of his own "Parson's Wedding", in 1664 and 1672-3, were cast entirely with women.

In 1673, Killigrew was appointed Master of the Revels. He lost control of his theatre in a conflict with his son Charles in 1677. (Charles, in turn, went bust a year later.) Thomas Killigrew died at Whitehall on 19 March 1683.

Thomas Killigrew's dramas are:

*"The Prisoners" (written c. 1632-5 in London; printed 1641)
*"Claricilla" (c. 1636, Rome; printed 1641)
*"The Princess, or Love at First Sight" (c. 1636; Naples)
*"The Parson's Wedding" (c. 1637; Basel, Switzerland)
*"The Pilgrim" (Paris)
*"Bellamira Her Dream, or Love of Shadows" (two-part play; Venice)
*"Cicilia and Clorinda, or Love in Arms" (two-part play; "Cicilia", c. 1650, Turin; "Clorinda", 1651, Florence)
*"Thomaso, or the Wanderer" (two-part play; Madrid).

In 1664, [In the collected edition, each play has a separate title page (common in seventeenth-century collections); and some of these title pages are dated 1663 instead of 1664, causing some confusion in Killigrew's bibliography. (This type of misdating is also not unusual in the collections of the era.)] Henry Herringman published in a collected edition of Killigrew's dramas, titled "Comedies and Tragedies" (rather inaccurately, since the majority of the plays are tragicomedies). Only his two earliest plays had been printed previously. The collected edition identifies the city in which Killigrew supposedly wrote each play.

"The Parson's Wedding" and "Claricilla" were successful stage plays. Of his last three works, "Thomaso" is a broad comedy based on Killigrew's experiences in European exile, while "Bellamira" and "Cicillia" are heroic romances—but all three are closet dramas, ten-act double plays never intended for the stage. Yet oddly enough, Aphra Behn adapted "Thomaso" for her successful "The Rover" (1677). [Margaret Lindon Whedon, "Rogues, Rakes, and Lovers," dissertation, 1993.] The tragedy "The Pilgrim," apparently never performed, borrows its plot from James Shirley's "The Politician" and reveals many allusions to Shakespeare.

Some critics have considered "The Parson's Wedding" as a Restoration play written before the Restoration, an anticipation of what was to come—and Killigrew himself as a central figure in the transition from English Renaissance theatre to Restoration drama.


He married twice.

1 Cecilia Crofts (16??-1638) in 1636, a maid of honour to Queen Henrietta Maria with a son:
* Henry Killigrew (bapt 16 April 1637 St Martin's-in-the-Fields)2 Charlotte de Hesse (1629-1716) in 1655; with children:
* Charles Killigrew (born cir 1656)
* Thomas Killigrew (the younger) (1657-1719), who had one successful play, called "Chit-Chat" (1719)
* Robert (Roger) Killigrew (born 17 September 1663)
* Elizabeth Killigrew (born 3 July 1666)

His second wife and their 3 sons were naturalised in an Act of Parliament in 1683.

The Other Killigrews

Among his 8 siblings known to have survived to adulthood, Thomas had two brothers who also wrote plays:
*Sir William Killigrew (1606-1695), was a Court official (vice chamberlain to the Queen) who wrote four plays: "Selindra"; "Pandora"; and "Ormasdes, or Love and Friendship"—all printed in 1664; and "The Siege of Urbin" (1666), generally considered his best work.
*Henry Killigrew (1613-1700), a clergyman, wrote only one play...but he wrote it twice. His "The Conspiracy" was published in 1638, apparently pirated; he revised it into "Pallantus and Eudora" (1653). Henry was the father of the poet Anne Killigrew.

A younger sister was the mistress of Charles II and bore him a daughter.
* Elizabeth (1622-1681), Viscountess Shannon, wife of Francis Boyle, 1st Viscount Shannon

Another younger sister
* Mary Killigrew (1623-1677), later wife of Sir John James,has been confused in other biographies [ [ Loves of Charles II's ] ] with Mary Sackville (1645-1679) (formerly Berkeley, née Bagot) - the widowed Countess of Falmouth - who was another mistress.



*Harbage, Alfred. "Thomas Killigrew, Cavalier Dramatist, 1612-1683." Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1930.
*Harbage, Alfred. "Cavalier Drama." New York, Modern Language Association of America, 1936.

External links

* [;layer=2;rgn1=period;q1=Jac&size=100&slice=1 Thomas Killigrew works online.]
* [;idno=P1.0146 Henry Killigrew's "The Conspiracy" online.]
* [;idno=P2.0590 William Killigrew's "The Siege of Urbin" online.]
* [;idno=P2.0589 William Killigrew's "Selindra" online.]

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