Davenant, Sir William (1605-1668), an English poet and playwright, generally thought the son of an Oxford innkeeper, but by some said to be an illegitimate son of Shakspeare. After passing some time at Lincoln College, he became a page in the households, successively, of the Duchess of Richmond and of Lord Brooke. He organised masques, and in 1637, at the death of Ben Jonson, he was appointed Poet Laureate. His Royalist sympathies caused his arrest in 1641, but he escaped to France, and shortly returned with supplies for the king. In 1643 the king knighted him for his services at the siege of Gloucester. Soon after he retired to France, became Catholic, and was attached to the service of the Princess Henrietta. He at this time began an epic poem, Gondibert. While trying to lead a French colony to Virginia, he was captured, and was for some time a prisoner at Cowes, where he went on with Gondibert. In 1650 he was tried, and is said to have been saved by the efforts of Milton, whose services he requited in like manner after the Restoration. After two years' imprisonment he started a theatre, and after the Restoration he managed and wrote for a theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields. Besides his unfinished Gondibert, he wrote dramas and masques, and also helped Dryden to spoil Shakspeare's Tempest. He was buried in Westminster Abbey.