William Cartwright

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William Cartwright (September 1, 1611 – November 29, 1643), was an English dramatist and churchman.

The son of a country gentleman turned innkeeper, he was born at Northway, Gloucestershire. Anthony Wood gives an account of his origin which is probably correct, although it is contradicted by statements made in David Lloyd's Memoirs. Cartwright was educated at the free school of Cirencester, at Westminster School, and at Christ Church, Oxford, where he took his M.A. degree in 1635.

He became, according to Wood, the most florid and seraphical preacher in the university, and appears to have been no less admired as a reader in metaphysics. In 1642 he was made succentor of Salisbury Cathedral, and in 1643 he was chosen junior proctor of the university. Cartwright was a successor to Ben Jonson and is often counted among the Sons of Ben, the group of dramatists who practiced Jonson's style of comedy. The collected edition of his poems (1651) contains commendatory verses by Henry Lawes, who set some of his songs to music, by Izaak Walton, Alexander Brome, Henry Vaughan and others. It is said that King Charles I of England wore mourning on the day of his funeral.

His plays are, with the exception of The Ordinary, far-fetched in plot, and stilted and artificial in treatment. They are:

  • The Royal Slave (1636), produced by the students of Christ Church before the king and queen, with music by Henry Lawes
  • The Lady Errant (acted, 1635-1636; printed, 1651)
  • The Siege, or Love's Convert (printed 1651)

In The Ordinary (1635?) he produced a comedy of real life, in imitation of Jonson, representing pot-house society. It is reprinted in Robert Dodsley's Old Plays (ed. William Hazlitt, vol. xii.).

  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain. The article is available here: [1]
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