Early Life[change | change source]
Davenant was born in 1606 and (according to John Aubrey) Shakespeare was his godfather. Shakespeare died in 1616 when Davenant was 10 years old. Two years later, Davenant wrote a poem about remembering Shakespeare but he only published as an adult. Davenant was taught to become a playwright by Ben Jonson and was known for a play called Madagascar. After Jonson died, King Charles I appointed Davenant as poet laureate.
English Civil War[change | change source]
When Oliver Cromwell led a rebellion against King Charles, William Davenant fought against Cromwell so Charles gave Davenant a knighthood and called him Sir William Davenant. Davenant also got military supplies from France to England. After Charles was overthrown and his head cut off, Charles’s wife Henrietta Maria ran away to her brother Louis XIII in France and her son and Sir William Davenant came with her. Henrietta Maria appointed Davenant governor of Maryland to give him an excuse to sail to North America and convince people there to fight for them against Cromwell. But on the way there Davenant was captured and brought to England. Cromwell wanted to kill Davenant but Davenant’s friend John Milton asked Cromwell not to do that so Cromwell locked Davenant in the Tower of London.
Interregnum[change | change source]
Cromwell eventually released Sir William Davenant from the Tower and Davenant found out that Cromwell had banned public performance of plays. So Sir William Davenant turned his own home into a private theatre and since people weren’t writing plays at the time, most of the plays he put on were the ones by William Shakespeare.
The Restoration[change | change source]
When Charles II became king of England, he was going to kill John Milton for having been a supporter of Oliver Cromwell but Davenant convinced Charles not to do that. Then Charles unbanned plays so Sir William Davenant, who was again poet laureate, started his own theatre. At the time Davenant mostly did Shakespeare plays and a lot of other people ended up doing the same thing. Then Davenant decided to start having female characters be played by actresses. Davenant also tried to modernize some Shakespeare plays after plays by other people started to become popular.
Death[change | change source]
John Aubrey[change | change source]
In his biography of William Shakespeare, John Aubrey said that he got information from Sir William Davenant and his brother because they knew Shakespeare as children. And in his biography of Davenant, Aubrey said that Shakespeare was Davenant’s godfather and that Davenant was said to write with the same spirit as Shakespeare did. Aubrey also wrote that when Davenant was drunk, he told his friend Samuel Butler that he would be happy if people thought he was the actual son of Shakespeare even if led to his mother being called “a whore”.
Son of Shakespeare Theory[change | change source]
There is a lot of debate about if Davenant were actually the son of Shakespeare or not. Some people think he was and some think he wasn’t.