Sir William Davenant (or D’Avenant), son of John Davenant, a vintner, was born at Oxford, England, near the end of February, in 1606. As a young man, he wrote his first plays while living in the household of Sir Fulke Greville, and by 1638, he was sufficiently established as a poet and playwright to succeed Ben Jonson as poet laureate. When civil war broke out in 1642, Davenant, a staunch Royalist, risked his life for the Stuart cause. He fled to the Continent for a time, and in 1650 he was on his way to America to become lieutenant governor of Maryland when his ship was intercepted and he was captured and imprisoned in the Tower of London. It was there that he wrote most of his unfinished heroic poem Gondibert. Influential friends finally secured his release from the Tower, after which Davenant managed to live on good terms with the Puritan government. He eventually secured official permission to stage operatic entertainments at Rutland House in London, beginning in May of 1656.
Four years later, when the monarchy was restored, Davenant expected court preferment on the basis of his past service to the Stuarts. Although Charles II did grant him a patent to operate a theater, Davenant never regained the favor he had enjoyed under Charles I. Therefore, instead of relying on the patronage of the court, he busied himself with writing and staging plays for the Duke’s Company, which he managed at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in the public playhouse that...
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