Aphra Behn

1506 WordsJul 10, 20187 Pages
Aphra Behn, who is the first female to achieve status of a professional playwright attempted to alter and influence the literary cannon through her writing, which was a precarious occupation but allowed literature to evolve in a wider range. Behn was also one of the wittiest and entertaining as evidenced through her most renowned play, The Rover, which is a restoration, yet dark comedy set in 17th century Italy while under the colonial reign of Spain. The large cast of characters becomes embroiled in scenes and consist a mix of themes of infidelity, seduction, misrepresentation, and elaborate swordplay, which create tension and confusion in addition to many comedic episodes. The play expresses its author's objections to the vulnerability…show more content…
The play, placed at eminent place to the libertine, whose pursuit of sexual conquests seemed to reinforce the views of women as little more than sexual diversions for men. Despite Behn’s political investment in this upper-class concept of manhood, critics and scholars have ‘argued that her plays simply just offer celebrations of libertine masculinity.’ (Staves, 2004: 81) The Carnival setting in the play gives the characters a freedom, particularly sexual freedom, they would not otherwise possess. When asked by her governess what she will do at Carnival, Hellena replies, ‘That which all the World does, as I am told, be as mad as the rest, and take all innocent Freedom.’ (Owens, 1996: 268) In the play, the madness and freedom of Carnival is produced by the masquerading element of the festival. As Belville points out about the masks he and Willmore are wearing, ‘Whatever Extravagances we commit in these Faces, our own may not be oblig’d to answer ‘em.’ (Owens, 1996: 275) This kind of environment is especially dangerous for a licentious character like Willmore. In fact, Willmore’s sexual desire threatens to become violent almost immediately after he comes ashore at Naples. A woman dressed like a courtesan shuns Willmore’s advances and Willmore quickly becomes aggressive, his sexual desire restrained only by the more honorable Belville who beseeches him to ‘use no Violence here.’ The masquerade setting in
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