Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Sir William Davenant was born in late February, 1606 in Oxford, England, the son of Jane Shepherd Davenant and John Davenant, proprietor of the Crown Tavern (or Crown Inn) and mayor of Oxford. He was the godson of William Shakespeare, who had stayed frequently at the Crown during his travels between London and Stratford-upon-Avon. It was even rumored that he was the Bard's biological son as well. However, it seems that this rumor stemmed from a comment attributed to Davenant by Samuel Butler: "It seemed to him [Davenant] that he writ with the very same spirit that Shakespeare [did], and seemed content enough to be called his son."
Following the death of Ben Jonson in 1637, Davenant was named Poet Laureate of England in 1638. He was a supporter of King Charles I in the English Civil War. In 1641, he was declared guilty of high treason, only to be knighted two years later by the king following the battle at Gloucester. He was then appointed Emissary to France in 1645 and treasurer of the colony of Virginia in 1649 by Charles II. The following year, he was made lieutenant governor of Maryland, but was captured at sea, imprisoned, and sentenced to death. He spent all of 1651 in the Tower of London, where he was imprisoned at the time Gondibert was written. Having been released in 1652, he was only pardoned in 1654.
Davenant once again found himself in legal trouble in 1659, when he was imprisoned for his part in Sir George Booth's uprising at Cheshire. He was released the same year though and fled to France. He had returned to England sometime before the initial production of his adaptation of Shakespeare's The Tempest, written with John Dryden, who would be named the next Laureate in 1670.
After suffering from syphilis for nearly four decades, he passed away in London on April 7, 1668, shortly after his final play, The Man's the Master , was first performed. He is buried in the Poets' Corner at Westminster Abbey where the inscription on his tablet reads "O rare Sir William Davenant." It has been noted that the original inscription on Ben Jonson's tablet, which was already removed by the time Davenant died, was "Rare Ben," which was the supposedly name Shakespeare had for Jonson.
Nine of his works, though they were previously licensed or produced in London during his life like all of his plays, were finally published in print posthumously. Several of these were included in The Works of Sr William D'avenant Kt. , by Henry Herringman in 1673, which was copied from Davenant's own originals.
Epic Poems and Books of Poetry
- Ieffereidos (1630)
- Madagascar, with other Poems (1638)
- London, King Charles his Augusta, or, City Royal, of the founders, the names, and oldest honours of that City (1648)
- A Discourse upon Gondibert, an heroick poem (or simply Gondibert ) (1650), which was originally published unfinished, but was published again in 1651 in its final form and included Davenant's "Preface to his most honour’d friend Mr. Hobs" and "The Answer of Mr. Hobbes to Sr Will. D’Avenant’s Preface before Gondibert" by Thomas Hobbes, to whom the book was dedicated; the official second edition in 1653 also contained "Certain Verses, written by severall of the author’s friends"
- Poems on Several Occasions (1657)
- A Panegyric to his Excellency the Lord General Monck (1660), to George Monck
- Poem upon his sacred Majesties most happy return to his dominions (1660), on the Restoration of Charles II
- Poem, to the King’s most sacred Majesty (1663), to Charles II
Listed in chronological order by actual date of publication, not performance.
- Albovine, King of the Lombards (1629)
- The Cruel Brother (1630), which may also have been the same play published as The Colonel in 1629
- The Just Italian (1630)
- The Temple of Love (1635)
- The Witts (1636)
- The Platonic Lovers (1636)
- The Triumphs of the Prince D'Amour (1636)
- Britannia Triumphans (1638), with Inigo Jones
- Luminalia , or The Festival of Light (1638), with Indigo Jones
- Salmacida Spolia (1640)
- The Unfortunate Lovers (1643)
- Love and Honour (1649), which was also previously performed as The Courage of Love; and The Nonpareilles, or The Matchless Maids
- The Siege of Rhodes, Part I (1656)
- The Cruelty of the Spaniards in Peru (1658)
- The History of Sir Francis Drake (1659)
- The Siege of Rhodes, Part II (1663)
- The Man's the Master (1669)
- News from Plymouth (1673)
- The Law Against Lovers (1673)
- The Fair Favourite (1673)
- The Distresses (1673), which was originally performed as The Spanish Lovers
- The Play-House to Be Let (1673)
Revisions, Adaptations and Other Productions for the Stage
- Greene's Tu Quoque (1667), which was based upon the 1614 print of Jo. Cooke 's Greene's Tu Quoque Or, the Cittie Gallant , which had been made famous by the actor Thomas Greene 's 1611 performance
- The Rivals (1668), which was a revision of John Fletcher's The Two Noble Kinsmen
- The Tempest, or The Enchanted Island, (1670), an adaptation with John Dryden of William Shakespeare's play
- The First Day's Entertainment at Rutland House (1673), which was written by Davenant in 1657 and finally published in The Works
- Macbeth (1674), an adaptation of William Shakespeare's play
Links to Davenant's Works online
- Four poems at the Poetry Archive
- Five poems from Metaphysical Lyrics & Poems of the 17th Century at Bartleby.com
- Three poems from The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900 at Bartleby.com
- The complete text of Davenant and Dryden's adaptation of The Tempest
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