William Davenant

The Diary of John Evelyn

Source: William Bray (ed.), Memoirs of John Evelyn … comprising his diary, from 1641-1705-6, and a selection of his familiar letters, to which is subjoined, the private correspondence between King Charles I. and Sir Edward Nicholas; also between Sir Edward Hyde, afterwards Earl of Clarendon, and Sir Richard Browne, ambassador to the Court of France, in the time of King Charles I. and the usurpation, Vol. 2 (London : H. Coburn, 1827), p. 185

Production: William Davenant, The Siege of Rhodes, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London, 9 January 1662

Text: I saw acted “The Third Part of the Siege of Rhodes.” In this acted yº faire and famous comedian call’d Roxalana from ye part she perform’d; and I think it was the last, she being taken to be the Earle of Oxford’s Misse (as at this time they began to call lewd women). It was in recitativa musiq.

Comments: John Evelyn (1620-1706) was an English writer and horticulturalist, who kept a diary from 1640 to 1706, though for its first twenty years or so the entries were composed from notes some time after the relevant dates. Roxalana was the actress Hester Davenport, mistress of the Earl of Oxford, and nicknamed after the part she played in William Davenant‘s The Siege of Rhodes, generally held to be the first British opera. ‘Recitativa musiq’ indicates that it was sung rather than spoken. The work was in two parts, of which this was the second, not a third.

Links: Copy at Hathi Trust

Pepys’ Diary

Source: Diary of Samuel Pepys, 18 February 1662

Production: William Davenant, The Law Against the Lovers, Lincoln’s Inn Fields theatre, London 18 February 1662

Text: Having agreed with Sir Wm. Pen and my wife to meet them at the Opera, and finding by my walking in the streets, which were every where full of brick-battes and tyles flung down by the extraordinary wind the last night (such as hath not been in memory before, unless at the death of the late Protector), that it was dangerous to go out of doors; and hearing how several persons had been killed to-day by the fall of things in the streets, and that the pageant in Fleetstreet is most of it blown down, and hath broke down part of several houses, among others Dick Brigden’s; and that one Lady Sanderson, a person of quality in Covent Garden, was killed by the fall of the house, in her bed, last night; I sent my boy home to forbid them to go forth. But he bringing me word that they are gone, I went thither and there saw “The Law against Lovers,” a good play and well performed, especially the little girl’s (whom I never saw act before) dancing and singing; and were it not for her, the loss of Roxalana would spoil the house. So home and to musique, and so to bed.

Comments: Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) was a British naval administrator and diarist. The Law Against the Lovers was a play written by Sir William Davenant, which was based on Measure for Measure but added Beatrice and Benedick from Much Ado About Nothing. It was seen by Pepys at the Lincoln’s Inn Fields theatre, London, 18 February 1662. ‘Roxalana’ was the actress Hester Davenport.

Links: http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1662/02/18

Pepys’ Diary

Source: Diary of Samuel Pepys, 1 January 1664

Production: John Fletcher/William Shakespeare (adap. William Davenant), Henry VIII, Lincoln’s Fields theatre, London, 1 January 1664

Text: Thence to my uncle Wight’s, where Dr. of ——, among others, dined, and his wife, a seeming proud conceited woman, I know not what to make of her, but the Dr’s. discourse did please me very well about the disease of the stone, above all things extolling Turpentine, which he told me how it may be taken in pills with great ease. There was brought to table a hot pie made of a swan I sent them yesterday, given me by Mr. Howe, but we did not eat any of it. But my wife and I rose from table, pretending business, and went to the Duke’s house, the first play I have been at these six months, according to my last vowe, and here saw the so much cried-up play of “Henry the Eighth;” which, though I went with resolution to like it, is so simple a thing made up of a great many patches, that, besides the shows and processions in it, there is nothing in the world good or well done. Thence mightily dissatisfied back at night to my uncle Wight’s, and supped with them, but against my stomach out of the offence the sight of my aunt’s hands gives me, and ending supper with a mighty laugh, the greatest I have had these many months, at my uncle’s being out in his grace after meat, we rose and broke up, and my wife and I home and to bed, being sleepy since last night.

Comments: Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) was a British naval administrator and diarist. He saw Shakespeare and Fletcher‘s Henry VIII, presumably in William Davenant‘s adaptation, at the Lincoln’s Inn Fields theatre, London on 1 January 1664. Thomas Betterton played Henry.

Links: http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1664/01/01

Roscius Anglicanus

Source: John Downes, Roscius Anglicanus, or, An historical review of the stage (London: H. Playford, 1708), p. 24

Production: John Fletcher/William Shakespeare (adap. William Davenant), Henry VIII, Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre, London, December 1663

Text: King Henry the 8th, This Play, by Order of Sir William Davenant, was all new Cloath’d in proper Habits: The King’s was new, all the Lords, the Cardinals, the Bishops, the Doctors, Proctors, Lawyers, Tip-staves, new Scenes: The part of the King was so right and justly done by Mr. Betterton, he being Instructed in it by Sir William, who had it from Old Mr. Lowen, that had his Instructions from Mr. Shakespear himself, that I dare and will aver, none can, or will come near him in this Age, in the performance of that part: Mr. Harris‘s performance of Cardinal Wolsey, was little Inferior to that, he doing it with such just State, Port and Mein, that I dare affirm, none hitherto has Equall’d him: The Duke of Buckingham by Mr. Smith; Norfolk, by Mr. Nokes; Suffolk, by Mr. Lilliston; Cardinal Campeius and Cramnur, by Mr. Medburn; Bishop Gardiner, by Mr. Underhill; Earl of Surry, by Mr. Young; Lord Sands by Mr. Price; Mrs. Betterton, Queen Catherine: Every part by the great Care of Sir William, being exactly perform’d; t being all new Cloath’d and new Scenes; it continu’d Acting 15 Days together with general Applause.

Comments: John Downes (?-1719) was an author and theatre prompter at the Duke’s Theatre, the United Company and Thomas Betterton‘s King’s Company. He wrote a history of the English stage 1660-1706, Roscius Anglicanus, a mixture of notes, anecdotes and cast lists which is a major source of information on the Restoration theatre. The production of Henry VIII at Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre, London, was presumably adapted by William Davenant, the supposed illegitimate son of William Shakespeare and certainly a major advocate and adapter of Shakespeare’s works. He was manager of the Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre. John Lowin was an actor for Shakespeare in the King’s Men. Thomas Betterton (1635-1710) was the leading actor of the Restoration period. Among the other actors named are Mary Saunderson (Mrs Betterton), Henry Harris, William Smith and James Nokes. The production opened on 22 December 1663.

Links: Copy at the Internet Archive (1886 facsimile edition, edited by Joseph Knight)