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Aphra Behn's The Rover

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Emily Larsen

on 30 September 2015

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Transcript of Aphra Behn's The Rover

Aphra Behn's
The Rover

Spy and Writer
The Rover; or, the Banished Cavaliers
The Rover: Style and Structure
Writing in the Restoration
Behn's Work
c. 1640 - 16 April 1689

Very little known about early life.
Employed by Charles II as spy in Antwerp.
Code name: Astrea (Astraea: the Greek goddess of innocence and purity: the celestial virgin).
Often eluded to sexual desire in writing: (The Disappointment, The Rover).
One of the first prolific, high-profile female dramatists in Britain.

The Rover was Behn's most famous play with Nell Gwynn, Charles' II mistress, coming out of retirement to play Angelica Bianca (the whore). Behn did not take credit for The Rover until the third printing. It was initially published under Anonymous.
"All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds."
Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own
Behn wrote 19 plays in her career along with novels, and poetry.
Before the Restoration:
Puritan Period 1649-1660
Puritan Beliefes:
Total depravity
Unconditional election
Limited atonement
Irresistible grace
Presbyterian dissatisfied with lack of religious uniformity.
Theatres were closed and performance made illegal.
Female sexuality considered a spiritual flaw.

Theatre banned for sixteen years.
Charles II became Monarch and brought the ideas of the French with him.
Charles II nicknamed the Merry Monarch.
Allowed two patents for theatres: The Kings Company and The Duke's Company.
Restoration Theatre
Charles II: The Merry Monarch
Restoration Comedy
A comedy of manners.
Used sexuality and situational humour.
Beginning of women on stage: increasing female agency and sexual objectification.
Behn's plays were generally popular with their audiences, she encountered criticism from contemporaries and later readers alike for the rampant sexual content.
Behn was the first female to consider herself a writer by profession, one "forced to write for bread and not ashamed to owne it." Her career did break ground for the women who came after.
Aphra Behn: a Restoration Writer
"The stage how loosely Astaea tread
Who fairly puts all characters to bed."
Alexander Pope
Prose instead of couplets.
Exaggeration of society.
Women playing men's roles.
Seduction and witty dialogue.
Aphra Behn's tomb reads,
"Here lies a Proof that Wit can never be Defence enough against Mortality.
Female agency
Love and marriage
Don Antonio - the King's son
Don Pedro - noble Spaniard
Willmore - the Rover
Angellica Bianca - a famous courtesan (prostitute)
Hellena - young, designed for a nunnery
Valeria - kinswoman to Florinda
Florinda - sister of Don Pedro and Hellena
Belville - English Colonel in love with Florinda
Blunt - English country gentleman.
Plot Summary
The Rover follows the escapades of a band of amorous English cavaliers and Italian women as they enjoy themselves at a carnival in Naples.
Behn caused scandal in some of her chosen subject matter which often eluded to sexual desire. She stated that her works would not have caused problems if they had been written by a man. Her work frequently takes on homoerotic themes. One of her best known poems, "The Disappointment", is the story of a sexual encounter told from a women's point of view that may be interpreted as a work about male impotence.
"There's no sinner like a young saint.
Willmore, Act 1 Scene 2
The Rover is a Restoration comedy that features multiple intersecting plot lines as well as witty dialogue, sexual innuendo, and objectification that fits the style of the time. It deals with a group of Englishman in Naples at Carnival time and the amorous adventures that they get up to. Behn also gives her female characters a lot of agency in terms of determining their own destinies and desires.
Don Predro wants Don Antonio to marry Florinda who wants to marry her true love Belville. Willmore falls in love with Hellena. Angelica Bianca falls in love with Willmore and swears revenge on him for his betrayal. Blunt is humiliated when the girl he thought loved him turns out to be a thief and a prostitute.
As the plot unravels, Florinda devises a plan to avoid marriage to Don Antonio, and Blunt attempts to rape Florinda as revenge against all women. Eventually Florinda and Belville are married and Hellena and Willmore commit to marry one another.
Or, a modern day comedy loosely based on Aphra Behn's life done in the Restoration style.
Aphra Behn was an innovative female writer in a time when she should not have been. She brought attention to female matters and is now regarded as a key English playwright and major figure in Restoration Theatre.
The Rover was well received by Charles II and there were 158 performances recorded between 1700 and 1760. Behn was also accused of plagiarism multiple times because The Rover closely resembles "Thomas, or, The Wanderer" by Thomas Killigrew
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