February 1, 2007

Having previously read other texts by Aphra Behn in past eighteenth century literature courses with displeasure, I had little expectations of The Rover. Although reading The Rover was not quite as dreadful as Oroonoko, I found little enjoyment out of reading the play. So, in the spirit of David Letterman, here is the top five (much too lazy for ten) reasons why Krystal is not as fond of Aphra Behn as she is of other Restoration, Romantic, Victorian, Modern, and Contemporary authors. (As a side note, this post is based on part one of The Rover, my post on part two will soon follow). 


5). I am not Charles II, nor am I anything like an eighteenth century Tory, so I have little sympathy for restoration political thought.

 From reading this text, and others by Behn, it is quite obvious that she is a Royalist and a supporter of Charles II. Throughout The Rover, Behn criticises Cromwell’s reign and praises the return of an English Monarchy. Behn frequently reveals her political position. For instance, in Act I, scene II Behn refers to the Parliamentary rule of Cromwell as “poor”, while praising the return of “the Court”(56, 60). I am assuming that this play was intended to be viewed by other Royalists, including Charles II, and therefore Behn’s political comments would have brought pleasure to such a monarch and his supporters; however, while Royalists would have found pleasure in such comments, I cannot relate to such political thoughts.  

4). Contrary to Virginia Woolf’s praise, Behn is not as subversive in her texts as I would have hoped. 

“All women together, ought to let flowers fall upon the grave of Aphra Behn… for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds.”                                                                                    (Virginia Woolf) 

Virginia Woolf praises Aphra Behn not solely based on her literary works, but for her involvement in the female literary movement. Behn is considered “the first Englishwoman to earn her living by her pen”(Abrams 213). While I agree with Woolf, concerning the significance of Behn’s authorship, I cannot ignore her submissive depiction of femininity in The Rover 

In addition to the historical content of the play, The Rover is also a play that deals with issues of gender in the Restoration period. While the text does comment on the powerlessness of women in a patriarchal environment, Behn seems to enforce this notion of the female sex instead of subverting it. Behn displays the suppression of the female in Restoration society with Pedro’s authority over his sisters. Pedro “designed” his sister Hellena to be a nun (107). By forcing Hellena to the nunnery, Pedro attempts to mould her into his ideal sister. Pedro’s control over Hellena’s life demonstrates the patriarchy’s power over the female. Essentially, Pedro designs and creates Hellena into the role of his choice. Whenever Hellena questions Pedro’s intent, he becomes tempered and further demeans his sister by calling her a “wild cat”(176). Initially, Hellena resists his authority and sets out to look for love before she is condemned to the nunnery. Although she resists her brother’s authority, she falls victim to jealousy and marries Willmore, the town rake. Although her marriage to Willmore could be perceived as Hellena’s rejection of Pedro’s suppression, by choosing to marry Willmore, she simply rejects one patriarch and accepts another. 

Similarly, Angellica initially subverts the custom of males marrying women based on their finances, by placing a price on her marriage. Essentially, instead of a man marrying her for economic benefit, the man must pay a large few for her hand in marriage. In this way, the female would benefit from the marital arrangement, and not the male. However, Willmore secures the custom when Angellica submits to his charm and instead pays him for his love.  

Although I could comment more on the issue of gender in The Rover concerning Florinda, I think that I have ranted on enough on that topic for now. 

3). Yet another play with women in disguise. 

As humorous as women continuously dressing up as men can be, after reading three plays with similar themes it becomes a bit redundant. 

2). Aphra Behn?  

Is a silent h really necessary in the name Behn? How pretentious.

1). Oroonoko, Oroonoko, Oroonoko. 

All I can say is that I am not fond of that text, and never want to write a long paper on the topic again. Enough said.


11 Responses to “”

  1. cinealain Says:

    Great post. See you tomorrow (read Congreve soon if you can). Oh, and Pan’s Labyrinth rules (especially the Pale Man). I am going to continue to say this till someone listens. Although, given that films like Epic Movie remain at the top of the box office, I will most likely be repeating it forever.

  2. Krystal Says:

    Alain, thanks for commenting on my post, and I promise that I will read Congreve very shortly. Also, I agree that Pan’s Labyrinth rules, minus the first violent and disturbing scene (I realize that the scene is necessary for demonstrating the character’s cruelty, but it is still very disturbing). Pale Man is great though. Anyways, see you in class.

  3. mjones Says:

    We touched on some of this in class, but the question still remains: is reporting or representing something the same as condoning it?

  4. cinealain Says:

    Would you be able to meet our Restoration group next monday or are you busy then? I am trying to schedule a meeting for early next week (monday seems good to me).

  5. Cass Says:

    Although her marriage to Willmore could be perceived as Hellena’s rejection of Pedro’s suppression, by choosing to marry Willmore, she simply rejects one patriarch and accepts another.

    I hear you. There is definitely a dichotomy being set up here – submission to the brother/father or submission to a husband. But I don’t think this is so much Behn as the society as a whole. After all, what other choice would there have been for a woman in Hellena’s position, in the real world?

  6. cinealain Says:

    Wednesday’s group meeting will in Room 207 in the Ward Chipman Library (I reserved a room)for 1:30 pm. Just thought I’d let you know.

  7. cinealain Says:

    For our meeting tomorrow at 1:30 pm in the library, could you meet me and others in the library lobby? I have reserved a room, but, alas, I have forgotten the number.

  8. Cass Says:

    Now that I’ve read Behn’s original Oroonoko, I totally understand why you don’t like it. I would have quit the second the Horny Jealous Grandfather came into the picture if I’d had my druthers.

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  11. gahks Says:

    Behn is being politically subversive! She is playing to a Royalist audience who are watching a Cavalier character in the form of Willmore (attempting to) rape a woman, Florinda. Instead of protecting her from peril, he simply sees her as another potential conquest. The destructive, seductive power of Willmore’s love is privileged over Belvile’s courtly attitudes to love; thus by recentring the plot of Killigrew’s ‘Thomaso, the Wanderer,’ on Willmore, ‘The Rover,’ Behn implicity criticises and more importantly satirises the cavalier myth in her play. Of course, this anti-Royalist message was dangerous – for a woman to be published (made public) constituted a defamation and made her vulnerable, hence why Behn initially published her play anonymously. See Helen M. Burke’s essay on “‘The Cavalier Myth in ‘The Rover'” in “The Cambridge Companion to Aphra Behn” for more detail on interpreting the playwright’s artistic agenda.

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