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Sir Davenant

gondibert, english and stage

DAVENANT, SIR William, English poet and dramatist: b. Oxford, February 1606; d. London, 7 April 1668. He was employed in preparing several masques for the entertainment of the court; and on the death of Ben Jonson in 1637, succeeded to the vacant laurel. On hostilities breaking out between Charles I and the Parliament, Davenant displayed his attach ment to the royal cause. At the siege of Glou cester in 1643, he was knighted by the king; and on the decline of the royal cause retired to France, where he became a Roman Catholic, and began the composition of his principal work, a heroic poem, entitled 'Gondibert.' An attempt which he afterward made to lead a French colony to Virginia had nearly proved fatal to him. The ship in which he had sailed from Normandy was captured by a cruiser in the service of the English Parliament, and carried into the Isle of Wight, where Davenant was imprisoned in Cowes Castle. In this for lorn captivity, from which he had but little hope of escaping alive, he composed the third book of (Gondibert.) In October 1650 he was re moved to London for trial before the high commission court. His life is said to have been preserved by the interposition of Milton. There

is a corresponding tradition, that Davenant repaid the good offices of Milton by protecting the republican poet after the Restoration. On the return of Charles II to England the stage was re-established with renewed splendor, and Davenant became patentee of a theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields. He continued to employ his pen and his talents as a theatrical writer and manager till his death. The introduction of opera on the English stage, and women in female roles has been ascribed to him. He was buried in Westminster Abbey. His works con sist of dramas, masques, addresses, and the epic (Gondibert,) which was never finished; but he is remembered chiefly by the reconstruction of Shakespeare's 'Tempest,' in which he was engaged along with Dryden, a work which long held the stage in place of the original, although unequivocally condemned by modern criticism as a vulgar and degraded version of a drama which stood in need of no such emendation. His plays were edited by Laing and Maidment (5 vols., Edinburgh, 1872-74).