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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VI. The Drama to 1642, Part Two.

IX. Lesser Jacobean and Caroline Dramatists

§ 18. Davenport’s Revisions of older Plays

Meritorious, like May’s, was the work of Robert Davenport, whose activity begins in 1624. Three of his plays survive, two comedies and a tragedy. The tragedy is a careful rewriting of Munday and Chettle’s Death of Robert, Earle of Huntington. Chettle’s drama is stripped of its crudities and banalities; so far as may be, the horrible is replaced by the pathetic, and a considerable adornment of poetic diction and imagery is added. The versification, of course, is brought up to date and irregularities disappear. The old play has a deeper significance than that which it expresses: we read it with impatience; but we remember it with interest, because of its suggestion of horror and gloom. Davenport, on the other hand, we read with respect for his industry, and we forget him at once. It is a plausible conjecture that his comedies were remodellings of older material; so that all his work looks backward. But The City-Night-Cap and A New Tricke to Cheat the Divell are, both of them, interesting and able comedies, like the two plays of May which we have just considered. The former dates from 1624. As this play takes its main story from “The Curious Impertinent” in Don Quixote, there can be nothing surprising in the fact that, in some respects, it is unpleasant; indeed, its comic part is intolerable; but, on the romantic side, it has merit. It contains echoes of Measure for Measure, of Cymbeline and of A Winter’s Tale; it is high-minded, with some grace of diction and force of eloquence, but dramatically unreasonable and wrong. The other play is slighter and more humorous, and, on the whole, more agreeable. Two of Davenport’s friends were players; of his circumstances nothing is known.