Aphra Behn - Gender Economics in the Rover

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TERM PAPER Gender Economics of Restoration and Aphra Behn INTRODUCTION The Restoration era allowed women to step into what was historically an essentially masculine space, that of literary and theatrical production. As women stepped on stage, they entered a market- they were commodities displayed to attract a larger crowd towards the theatre. Thus even though through writing or acting a woman could gain financial independence, unlike men they weren’t selling their work, they were ostensibly selling a part of themselves. A woman could not escape commodification even if she didn’t enter this particular market – matrimony and the nunnery were also means of buying and selling of women’s ‘wares’. The hymen itself was a commodity, as…show more content…
Also, in its machinery and properties, the Restoration stage was now arguably more dreamlike, seductive, and commodity intensive. Here the idea of a fetish becomes important. A fetish, by Freud’s description is the male impulse to eroticize objects or female body parts, which derives from a disavowal of a material lack (of the penis on the mother’s body). The second understanding of the word is through Marx’s account of the felicitation of the commodity: at the moment of exchange, the commodity appears to be separate from the workers who product it; the ‘special social character of private labours’ disavowed. This idea is relevant because on the stage, the Restoration actress, is nothing but an ornament in the male gaze. This attitude is apparent as Thomas Shadwell links the new phenomenon of female performers with painted theatrical scenes, both innovative commodities for audience consumption: Had we not for yr pleasure found new wayes You still had rusty Arras had, and thredbare playes: Not Scenes nor Woomen had they had their will, But some with grizl’d Beards had acted Woomen still. What this actually meant in the culture’s sexual economy is perhaps more accurately suggested by meta-theatrical references in plays’ prologues and epilogues. The actress playing Flirt in Wycheley’s The Gentleman Dancing
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