William Davenant

English poet and playwright

Sir William Davenant (28 February 16067 April 1668), 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 the Interregnum.

William Davenant.


  • The assembled souls of all that men held wise.
    • Gondibert (1650), Book ii. Canto v. Stanza 37.
  • Since knowledge is but sorrow's spy,
    It is not safe to know.
    • The Just Italian (licensed Oct. 2, 1629; printed 1630), Act v. Sc. 1.
    • Compare: "From ignorance our comfort flows", Matthew Prior, To the Hon. Charles Montague; "Where ignorance is bliss, ’T is folly to be wise", Thomas Gray, Eton College, Stanza 10.
  • For angling-rod he took a sturdy oake;
    For line, a cable that in storm ne'er broke;
    His hooke was such as heads the end of pole
    To pluck down house ere fire consumes it whole;
    The hook was baited with a dragon's tale,—
    And then on rock he stood to bob for whale.
    • Britannia Triumphans (1637; licensed Jan. 8, 1638; printed 1638), p. 15.
    • Compare:
      • "For angling rod he took a sturdy oak; / For line, a cable that in storm ne'er broke;... His hook was baited with a dragon's tail,— / And then on rock he stood to bob for whale."
        • From The Mock Romance, a rhapsody attached to The Loves of Hero and Leander, published in London in 1653 and 1677, republished in Chambers's Book of Days, vol. i. p. 173; William Barker Daniel, Supplement to Rural Sports (1813), p. 57.
      • "His angle-rod made of a sturdy oak;
        His line, a cable which in storms ne'er broke;
        His hook he baited with a dragon’s tail,—
        And sat upon a rock, and bobb'd for whale"
        • William King (1663–1712), Upon a Giant’s Angling (in Chalmers's British Poets, ascribed to King).

Quotes about Davenant

  • I found [Davenant] of so quick a Fancy that nothing was propos'd to him, on which he could not suddenly produce a thought extremely pleasant and surprizing: and those first thoughts of his, contrary to the old Latine Proverb, were not always the least happy. And as his fancy was quick, so likewise were the products of it remote and new. He borrowed not of any other; and his imaginations were such as could not easily enter into any other Man.
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