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        Sir William Davenant (1606-1668)

  from The Tempest, or The Enchanted Island.

    I  D.  Where does proud Ambition dwell?
    2.       In the lowest Rooms of Hell.
    I.       Of the damn’d who leads the Host?
    2.       He who did oppress the most.
    I.       Who such Troops of damned brings?
    2.       Most are led by fighting Kings.
              Kings who did Crowns unjustly get,
              Here on burning Thrones are set.

    I.       Who are the Pillars of Ambitions Court?
    2.       Grim Deaths and Scarlet Murthers it support.
    I.       What lyes beneath her Feet?
    2.                                        Her footsteps tread
              On Orphans tender breasts, and Brothers dead.
    I.       Can Heaven permit such Crimes should be
              Rewarded with felicity?
    2.       Oh no! uneasily their Crowns they wear,
              And their own guilt amidst their Guards they fear.
              Cares when they wake their minds unquiet keep,
              And we in visions lord it o’re their sleep.


murther = murderer

As discussed by Orgel (1987), the earliest performance of Shakespeare's The Tempest was in 1611: "Hallowmas nyght was presented att Whitehall before ye kinges Maiestie a play Called the Tempest." It was not, however, among Shakespeare's most popular plays.

It received some of its greatest popularity in an adaptation by Sir William Davenant and John Dryden titled The Tempest, or The Enchanted Island. The adaptation premiered on November 7, 1667 and contained less than a third of the original, a new character named Hippolito, and more comic material, music, and dance. It was this version that Shadwell used as the basis of his opera and it was so popular that Shakespeare's original version was not produced again until 1746. Even then, aspects of the adaptation and opera appeared regularly until 1838.

The above lines occur near the beginning of Act II, with two devils singing it offstage as Alonzo, Antonio, and Gozalo listen. They can be found (titled by the first line) along with a brief biography of Davenant in:

  • Davenant, Sir William. The Shorter Poems, and Songs from the Plays and Masques. A.M. Gibbs, ed. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972.

    The entirety of Dryden and Davenant's version can be found in:

  • Dryden, John & Sir William Davenant. The Tempest, or The Enchanted Island. A Comedy. London: Printed by F.M. for Henry Herringman at the Blew Anchor in the Lower-walk of the New Exchange, 1670. (as found in the facsimile edition published by London: Cornmarket Press Limited, 1969.)

    Shakespeare's original and a history of the work can be found in:

  • Shakesepeare, William. The Tempest. Stephen Orgel, ed. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987.

    Sir William Davenant is often listed as the second Poet Laureate of England (following Ben Jonson), with John Dryden the third. In the eighteenth century there were rumours that Davenant was actually Shakespeare's son (Gibbs, 1972).