was an English
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...
dramatist of the early seventeenth century. Nothing is known of his early life or education; the title pages of two of his plays identify him as a "Gentleman," though there is no record of him at either of the two universities or the Inns of Court. Scholars have guessed that he was born c. 1590; if, as some scholars think, he wrote the Address "To the knowing Reader" in the first quarto of King John and Matilda
King John and Matilda is a Caroline era stage play, a historical tragedy written by Robert Davenport. It was initially published in 1655; the cast list included in the first edition is provides valuable information on some of the actors of English Renaissance theatre.-Performance and publication:No...
he was still alive in 1655. He enters the historical record in 1624, when two of his plays were licensed by the Master of the Revels
The Master of the Revels was a position within the English, and later the British, royal household heading the "Revels Office" or "Office of the Revels" that originally had responsibilities for overseeing royal festivities, known as revels, and later also became responsible for stage censorship,...
His extant dramatic canon consists of only three plays: The City Nightcap
The City Nightcap, or Crede Quod Habes, et Habes is a Jacobean era stage play, a tragicomedy written by Robert Davenport. It is one of only three dramatic works by Davenport that survive.-Date:...
, A New Trick to Cheat the Devil
A New Trick to Cheat the Devil is an early seventeenth-century stage play, a comedy written by Robert Davenport that was first printed in 1639. One of only three surviving Davenport plays, it has been called an entertaining and extravagant farce....
, and King John and Matilda
. King John and Matilda
The year 1655 in literature involved some significant events.-Events:*May - Jeremy Taylor is imprisoned for four months at Chepstow Castle.*August 6 - The Blackfriars Theatre is demolished....
) bears strong resemblances to The Death of Robert Earl of Huntingdon,
the second of Anthony Munday
Anthony Munday was an English dramatist and miscellaneous writer. The chief interest in Munday for the modern reader lies in his collaboration with Shakespeare and others on the play Sir Thomas More and his writings on Robin Hood.-Biography:He was once thought to have been born in 1553, because...
's two Robin Hood plays, and can be regarded as virtually a rewrite of the earlier work. Yet Charles Lamb admired Davenport's version, and quoted from the closing scene in his Dramatic Specimens
The City Nightcap
was licensed in 1624, but not printed until 1661
The year 1661 in literature involved some significant events.-Events:* The Book of Kells is presented to Trinity College, Dublin.* Controversial author James Harrington is arrested on a charge of conspiracy....
. The subplot of this play was borrowed from Cervantes
-People:*Alfonso J. Cervantes , mayor of St. Louis, Missouri*Francisco Cervantes de Salazar, 16th-century man of letters*Ignacio Cervantes, Cuban composer*Jorge Cervantes, a world-renowned expert on indoor, outdoor, and greenhouse cannabis cultivation...
Giovanni Boccaccio was an Italian author and poet, a friend, student, and correspondent of Petrarch, an important Renaissance humanist and the author of a number of notable works including the Decameron, On Famous Women, and his poetry in the Italian vernacular...
, and Aphra Behn
Aphra Behn was a prolific dramatist of the English Restoration and was one of the first English professional female writers. Her writing contributed to the amatory fiction genre of British literature.-Early life:...
's Amorous Prince
The year 1671 in literature involved some significant events.-Events:*Nell Gwyn retires from the stage.*On November 9, the Duke's Company open their new venue, the Dorset Garden Theatre.-New books:...
) is an adaptation of it. A New Trick to Cheat the Devil
The year 1639 in literature involved some significant events.-Events:*May 21 - The King's Men act John Fletcher's The Mad Lover.*Blaise Pascal's family move to Rouen.*François de La Mothe-Le-Vayer is elected to the Académie Française....
) is a farce
In theatre, a farce is a comedy which aims at entertaining the audience by means of unlikely, extravagant, and improbable situations, disguise and mistaken identity, verbal humour of varying degrees of sophistication, which may include word play, and a fast-paced plot whose speed usually increases,...
, which contains among other things the idea of the popular supper story which reappears in Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen was a Danish author, fairy tale writer, and poet noted for his children's stories. These include "The Steadfast Tin Soldier," "The Snow Queen," "The Little Mermaid," "Thumbelina," "The Little Match Girl," and "The Ugly Duckling."...
's Little Claus and Big Claus.
As told by Davenport the story closely resembles the Scottish Freres
Berwick-upon-Tweed is a border town in the north of England.Berwick may also refer to:- England :*Berwick Street Market, London*Berwick, Sussex**Berwick railway station*Berwick St John, Wiltshire...
, which was printed in 1603.
Three other plays entered in the Stationers Register as Davenport's have not survived: The Peddler
, The Fatal Brothers,
and The Politic Queen.
Samuel Sheppard, in a 1651 epigram, mentions a fourth lost work, The Pirate
, which he thought showed how Davenport "Rival'st Shakespeare
, though thy glory's lesse". Davenport is also reported to have collaborated with Thomas Drue
Thomas Drue or Drewe was an English playwright.He wrote The Life of the Duchess of Suffolk and The Bloody Banquet.Drue is the author of a historical play, ‘The Life of the Dvtches of Svffolke,’ 1631, 4to, which has been wrongly attributed by Langbaine and others to Thomas Heywood...
on The Woman's Mistaken,
and that too is lost.
A history play titled Henry I
was licensed for performance by the King's Men on April 10, 1624 as Davenport's work; it has not survived. In 1653, when the stationer Humphrey Moseley
Humphrey Moseley was a prominent London publisher and bookseller in the middle seventeenth century.Possibly a son of publisher Samuel Moseley, Humphrey Moseley became a "freeman" of the Stationers Company, the guild of London booksellers, on 7 May 1627; he was selected a Warden of the Company on...
The History of Cardenio, often referred to as merely Cardenio, is a lost play, known to have been performed by The King's Men, a London theatre company, in 1613. It was attributed to William Shakespeare and John Fletcher in a Stationers' Register entry of 1653...
as the work of Shakespeare and John Fletcher
John Fletcher was a Jacobean playwright. Following William Shakespeare as house playwright for the King's Men, he was among the most prolific and influential dramatists of his day; both during his lifetime and in the early Restoration, his fame rivalled Shakespeare's...
, he simultaneously registered a Henry I
and a Henry II
as the works of "Shakespeare, & Dauenport." John Warburton
John Warburton was Somerset Herald of Arms in Ordinary at the College of Arms in the early 18th century. Warburton was a collector of old drama manuscripts, who is perhaps most notable because of his carelessness. On one occasion, he left a pile of manuscripts in the kitchen. When he came looking...
the antiquarian recorded the Shakespeare/Davenport Henry I
in his manuscript collection — but it was one of the plays destroyed by Warburton's cook. While the Henry I
licensed in 1624 was certainly a play for the King's Men
The King's Men was the company of actors to which William Shakespeare belonged through most of his career. Formerly known as The Lord Chamberlain's Men during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, it became The King's Men in 1603 when King James ascended the throne and became the company's patron.The...
, it first appears eight years after Shakespeare's death and scholars have been universally skeptical that Davenport and Shakespeare ever worked together.
Three significant poems by Davenport also survive. They are: A Crown for a Conqueror,
a religious poem, and Too Late to Call Back Yesterday,
a moral dialogue, both published in 1639; and A Survey of the Sciences,
which survived in manuscript and was published only in the 1880s.
Davenports plays were reprinted by A. H. Bullen
Arthur Henry Bullen, often known as A. H. Bullen, was an English editor and publisher, a specialist in 16th and 17th century literature, and founder of the Shakespeare Head Press, which for its first decades was a publisher of fine editions in the tradition of the Kelmscott Press.His father George...
in Old English Plays
(new series, 1890).