Image of William Davenant


Lifetime: 1606 - 1668 Passed: ≈ 356 years ago


Poet , Soldier


United States

William Davenant

Sir William Davenant also spelled D'Avenant, was an English poet and playwright. Along with Thomas Killigrew, Davenant was one of the rare figures in English Renaissance theatre whose career spanned both the Caroline and Restoration eras and who was active both before and after the English Civil War and during the Interregnum.

Davenant is believed to have been born in late February, 1606 in Oxford, the son of Jane Shepherd Davenant and John Davenant, proprietor of the Crown Tavern and Mayor of Oxford. He was baptised on 3 March, his godfather sometimes being said to have been William Shakespeare, who, according to John Aubrey, had stayed frequently at the Crown during his travels between London and Stratford-upon-Avon. It was even rumoured that he was the Bard's biological son as well.

Davenant once again found himself in legal trouble in 1659, when he was imprisoned for his part in Sir George Booth's uprising in Cheshire after the death of Cromwell. He was, however, released the same year, and left once more for France. When Charles II was restored to the throne, Davenant returned to England. The Restoration also led to the re-opening of theatres, which had been closed due to the influence of the puritans under Cromwell. In 1660, he is publicly recorded as being one of the two theatrical patentees, along with Thomas Killigrew, who obtained a monopoly of public theatre performances. He headed the Duke of York's Men and produced highly successful theatrical seasons at Lincoln's Inn Fields from 1660 until his death in 1668. Among his more successful productions were some Shakespeare plays, including: Hamlet, Henry VIII, and Macbeth, as well as non-Shakespeare plays such as Sir Samuel Tuke's The Tragedy of Five Hours and John Dryden's comedy Sir Martin Marall. 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 Poet Laureate.

He died in London on 7 April 1668, shortly after his final play, The Man's the Master, was first performed. He is buried in 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 "O Rare Ben," which was the name Shakespeare supposedly had for Jonson. "O Rare" is a play on the Latin "orare", to pray.

Books by William Davenant

The Law Against Lovers  Cover image

The Law Against Lovers

Play Love Truth Comedy Virtue Self-Established Virtues Restoration Laws Shakespearean Comedy Cheating Seduction

The Law Against Lovers was a dramatic adaptation of Shakespeare, arranged by Sir William Davenant and staged by the Duke's Company in 1662. It was the first of the many Shakespearean adaptations staged during the Restoration era. Davenant was not shy...

Tempest Cover image


John Dryden and William D'Avenant's Restoration adaptation of Shakespeare's The Tempest preserves the main plot and characters of the original. Prospero, the former Duke of Milan, lives on an isolated island with his daughter Miranda, and plans to ta...