The Rover Questions and Answers Marks 10
Q. 1. Comment on the Portrayal of Restoration Women in The Rover.
Ans. In late seventeenth-century London, Aphra Behn was the first woman to earn her living as a writer. As a playwright, she wrote plays that reflected historical and cultural aspects of the Restoration from a female perspective. In 1677, she penned one of her most notable plays, The Rover; or The Banished Cavaliers. Behn’s play debuted during the height of the Restoration period, which for theater meant more female agency on the stage because women were allowed to take on female roles for the first time. Behn places the action of her play in Spanish Naples, just before Lent in the midst of carnival, which is a setting fit for emphasizing the urge to break free from societal constraints. Through the stories of Florinda, Hellena, and Angellica, Behn integrates strong elements of feminism and libertinism by focusing on issues of marriage, selfidentity and representation. Each of these character types represents a different
aspect of a woman’s struggle to define herself during the Restoration.
Florinda’s character encompasses the Restoration woman’s struggle to gain agency in marriage. Before arriving at carnival, Florinda is trapped in the midst of a battle between following her own desire and the desires of her family. She wants to marry the English colonel Belvile, but must obey the patriarchal orders of her father and brother to marry who they see fit for her. In Katherine Quinsey’s book Broken Boundaries: Women & Feminism in Restoration Drama, Peggy Thompson points out that during the time that Behn wrote, male relatives often negotiated marriage contracts for the women in their family, but did so “not to protect their wards’ autonomy and property, but to enhance familial and dynastic interests” (Quinsey 73). In Florinda’s case, these interests would lead her to marry a rich elderly man named Don Vinciento. In a conversation with her brother Don Pedro during the opening scene, Florinda claims that she hates Don Vinciento, despite the fact that her brother says he could provide a good life for her in his “ancient villa belonging to the family of Vincentios these five hundred years,” (1.1.113-114). However, the prospect of marrying a man for property and stature is not appealing to Florinda, and she goes on to compare the tradition of arranged marriage to slavery, calling it an “ill custom” (1.1.77).
This “ill custom” was not generally espoused during the Restoration. In Susan Staves’ article, “Behn, Women, and Society”, she describes how prior to the challenges of the Civil Wars, the Church of England taught that children had a “religious obligation to honour and obey their parents”. But during the Restoration, the church clergy and “most decent people” felt that while the daughter was still obligated to listen to her parents in terms of a suitor, she should still have the ability to choose who she wanted to marry. This shift in to Florinda’s character because it allows her to break free of her is important social limitations. In her conversation with Don Pedro, Florinda rejects the patriarchal order of marriage and then ventures off to carnival with her sister Hellena, defying her brother once again as he had just ordered her not to go. With Florinda’s sister Hellena, Behn exposes the struggle of self-identification, specifically in terms of faith. Hellena has been set on the path to become a nun, and as she ventures off to carnival with her sister, the masquerade is a tool for her to free herself from societal restraints and experience real love. As noted earlier, the Church of England was very influential during the Restoration. Behn incorporated religion into The Rover, but she presented a critical view of church customs by portraying such strong libertine ideals from a devout character like Hellena. In the first scene Hellena tells Florinda that she would like see her and Belvile together because she hopes he has “some mad companion or other that will spoil [her] devotion” (1.1.42-43). She is enraptured with the idea and confesses to her sister that she thinks it is “very pretty to sigh, and sing, and blush…and long to wish to see a man” (1.1.13-14). Throughout the action at carnival, Hellena is determined not to return home and become what is expected of her. This illustrates the libertinism that goes against the patriarchal order ingrained in her religious devotion.
Hellena’s libertine values are very apparent when she meets Wilmore. Their courtship begins immediately and she tells him that vowing to die a maid is “foolish” (1.2.179). Wilmore and Hellena are both looking for an escape at carnival. When he arrives on shore, Wilmore tells the cavaliers that his “business ashore was only to enjoy [him]self a little this carnival” (1.2.77-78) hinting that he is looking for female companionship to occupy his time on the island. Hellena’s feelings of oppression, curiosity and yearning for male companionship connect the libertine elements of these two characters together. In her article, Staves discusses how a central problem for Behn “was to work out the sharply different consequences of libertinism for women”. While Wilmore, the libertine man, thrives on sexual conquest and fails to yield anything constant outside of the moment, Hellena, the libertine woman, experiences her feelings as “proof that she is desirable” while also threatening her sense of identity (20). This contrast is evident in the plot since Wilmore has sexual desire for Hellena as well as the fair courtesan, Angellica Bianca.
Despite their increasing agency in choosing a marriage partner, women in the Restoration were nonetheless valued as commodities. Angellica Bianca is an example of this as her struggles stemmed from social perspectives of value within the marketplace. The Staves article mentions that Behn was intrigued by the “‘ value’ of women in her society and experiment[ed) with dividing and isolating elements of conventional female value”. In her profession, Angellica usually takes on the dominant role in choosing a mate. “Nothing but gold shall charm my heart” (2.1.164), she proclaims after hearing about the cavaliers seeking to purchase her for the 1,000 crown price tag. The amount that the men are willing to pay represents her value and elevates her idea of self worth.
Angellica’s role reflects a need for representation and agency during the Restoration. She wears no mask, unlike Florinda and Hellena when women they go to carnival, and has a reputation outside of carnival based on her protession. Staves insightfully describes her character type as “Behn’s version of a maximally desirable woman (who] simultaneously possesses beauty, the power to evoke desire in men, wealth, and wit”. Unlike Florinda and Hellena, who seek to gain independence, Angellica’s conflict is between the powerlessness of love and maintaining control of a powerful commodity. In the second act, the cavaliers gaze at Angellica’s picture and discuss the contracted price. Words such as “stock” (2.1.21) and “quality” (2.1.60) are used. When Wilmore meets with Angellica’s woman in the second scene, he proposes that he split the cost with his friends and each would share an equal portion of her time (2.2.48-56). Though this is a blatant insult to her profession, Angellica is intrigued and implores Wilmore to continue his pursuit. She claims that she has never been in love before (2.2.123) but she falls for Wilmore, who argues that placing a price on sexual pleasure is a “sin” (2.2.15). With the argument of conventional morality on her mind, she in turn gives him her power by breaking the rules of her profession, allowing him to be with her at the cost of his love alone (2.2.155-65). Like Florinda and Hellena, Angellica broke the rules of her society for love, but the end result did not help her position in the marketplace.
Though each of these women was a valuable social commodity in their respective situations, Florinda began with no sense of agency, and the power shift in her patriarchal environment gave her more agency to choose who she would marry. Hellena began with the same level of agency as her sister, being forced into a life as a nun, but the shift in power allowed her to take on a new identity with a man which in turn gave her more agency in her devotion. Angellica, on the other hand lost power by falling in love. It left her vulnerable and decreased her level of agency which lowered her social value and self-worth.
Through Florinda, Hellena, and Angellica, Behn was able to bring to life some of the ideals of the Restoration while also critiquing popular movements within the era. Each of these characters endures a social struggle that fits into a bigger picture for the time. Marriage, self-identity and social representation are all topics that women of the Restoration were faced with and characterized what it meant to be a woman during that time. Behn’s execution of these elements makes The Rover a critical part of the history of Restoration Theater.
Q. 2. Discuss The Rover as a Restoration Comedy.
Ans. Restoration comedy, like most other literary genres, was deeply influenced by its historical context. With the abolition of the monarchy, England entered a period of puritan repression call the Interregnum (“between reigns”) or Commonwealth led by Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell’s rule was fraught with problems between himself and Parliament. Tensions arose over the nature of the constitution and the issue of supremacy, control of the armed forces, and debates over religious tolerance. In 1653 Cromwell dissolved Parliament, appointing himself Lord Protector. After Cromwell’s death in 1658, and the failure of his son Richard’s short-lived Protectorate, the army invited Charles I’s son, Charles, to become King. The restoration of the exiled Charles II to the throne of England in 1660 put an end to the claustrophobic Cromwellian regime and its preoccupation with hard work, at the expense of leisure. This gave rise to an atmosphere of euphoria and a deliberate reversal of the Puritan ethic. People were determined to enjoy their newly regained luxury and there was a general spirit of Carpe Diem. King Charles II brought with him a sense of the fun and frivolity of the French court where he had resided in exile. The king had a hedonistic character – he had numerous mistresses and illegitimate children, and loved racing and gambling – which constituted a considerable influence on the art and literature of the time. When Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660, the theatre companies were reopened and cast aside the Puritan restrictions of the previous eighteen years. The theatre of the time reflected the political and social changes brought by King Charles Il’s return to English soil. King Charles Il’s most notorious mistress was Nell Gwynne, who was also one of the most famous actresses of the day. The unsentimental or “hard” comedies of John Dryden, William Wycherley, and George Etherege reflected the atmosphere at Court, and celebrated with frankness an aristocratic macho lifestyle of unremitting sexual intrigue and conquest. Thus, sexual promiscuity, systematic frivolity and unabashed materialism were evident characteristics of the restoration period. However, viewing the age only in terms of its Epicureanism would amount to having a rather narrow perspective of the times, as Bonamy Dobree points out in the essay “Restoration Comedy’. Great emphasis was, in fact, laid on taste and cultural refinement, with men from all sections of society striving to prove themselves as ‘wits’. All these features are reflected in the writings of the period, especially Restoration comedy plays, with Aphra Behn’s The Rover both conforming to the genre, as well as cleverly subverting it.
Socio-economic changes in England led to the rise of writing as a profession, with more and more writers becoming free agents, who wrote for the market. This greatly influenced their writings as the text now became a commodity, subject to criticism by the consumers, and vulnerable to being shaped by the same. In such a milieu, Aphra Behn was not only one of the first professional writers, but the earliest woman writer. Her very act of writing for money was a subversion of societal norms and expectations. In fact, it coincided with the introduction of women actors into English drama. Behn was thus a subversive entity herself, a woman operating in the world of literature, the domain of men. She exercised her wit- and made her women characters do the same- in a time when the predominant mindset decreed that women were sentimental creatures, “antagonistic to intellect”. (Introduction to Worldview edition of The Rover) There was a growing tendency, in theatre, to serve the interests of the audience slavishly by playing to their commodity fetish. The audience mostly consisted of market-oriented, pleasure-seeking individuals who watched plays not for contemplation, but merely for leisure. Behn, in many ways, played the same role as other playwrights, allowing the watcher to act as voyeur and serving him with a heady mix of eroticism, sex antagonism and materialism. However, what sets Behn apart is that she made sure her plays offered a critique of her times even while conforming to them. The fact that critics sometimes question Behn’s positionality while mocking the belittling of women, when she herself was ‘putting herself out there’ as a published author, only serves to throw more light on the double standard accorded to the pudgement of women since times immemorial. As Shyamala A. Narayan says in ‘The Rover as a Restoration Comedy’, “The Restoration aristocrats prided themselves on their bawdy wit. The male playwrights were applauded for it, but Aphra Behn, being a woman, was vilified for it.” It is a function of the same society that refused to pay equal wages to women actresses and criticised the same when they were forced to become mistresses for fear of poverty.
The Rover submits to many Restoration comic tropes but also flouts them, primarily by setting the text within the carnival- a space characterised by licensed licentiousness and shortlivedness. This heightens the spirit of Carpe Diem- Seize the Day- and the flouting of rules in true Restoration style, but also serves to problematize behaviours as all acts can be explained away as part of the masquerade. In Florinda and Helena we have the stock figures of the aristocratic virgin and the witty heroine, respectively. Florinda is afraid to outrightly rebel against her brother and has to resort to entering the carnival to achieve her desires. She is aware of the value of her virginity and protects it to the very end to present to her beloved in marriage. The image of the youthful dame getting repulsed by a rich decrepit old man (conjured by Florinda’s refusal to marry either of the suitors approved by her brother) is also rather typical of the comedies of the time. The subversive aspect of Florinda’s behaviour is that she uses wanton means to achieve her ends. Florinda in the garden in a state of undress with a box of jewels in her hands is her moment of empowerment where she not only asserts that she will settle for no less than what she is ‘worth’ but also that her sexual desire, contrary to her brother’s expectations, is a force to be reckoned with.
Helena’s wit is a significant tool for setting up the battle of the wits. With her intellect, she becomes the sole match for Willmore, who despite his Casanova nature is drawn repeatedly to her. Her wilful pursuit of Willmore becomes the subversive element in this case, with her admiration for his inconstancy becoming a threat to the patriarchal notion of women as sentimental beings. Of the Rover women, Helena fares best because, although she is lustful, her power is based not in her sexuality but in her wit for adventure. It is true that both women- like many other characters in the play- return to the folds of society towards the end by seeking legitimacy from the institution of marriage. Women are almost always at the receiving end in Behn’s plays, especially since Restoration literature sought to be realistic. However, the fact that her women put up a mighty fight against restrictive norms mirrors her own sense of agency. Angellica Bianca’s romantic longings and her act of gifting her sexuality as well as money to Wilmore not only disrupts the usual transaction in the space of the courtesan’s house, but also acts as a facilitator of the general vocabulary of commerce used in the play. Also many Restoration Comedies include a character “disappointed in love or fortune” who was written in especially to provide the extreme passion of despair (Angelica Bianca would be the model for a this in The Rover). The rich prostitute Angelica Bianca, without chastity and modesty, thinks it is her privilege to seduce whomsoever she fancies. Behn’s radical awareness of the double standards of morality, by which men and women are enjoined to live, sounds most clearly in The Rover when Angelica points out that men effectively prostitute themselves in the marriage market when they marry a woman for her money and not for love. She tries to claim equal status with the men by using her sex as her power. Sadly, all her courtesan’s wealth cannot save Angelica from the bondage of “submissive passion” in which her true love for Willmore snares her.
Willmore, after whom the play is named, is the quintessential philandering rake, much like the model set by Charles II himself, imitated enthusiastically in many Restoration texts. However, Willmore is an alienated figure- an outsider, not tied down by any social roles- not because of deep cynicism (like other Restoration heroes) or an active disregard for norms, but simply because of his free spirit and epicurean tendency. It can even be said that his fickleness arises from his natural attraction to charming women. Readers in more recent times may be more aware of the inappropriateness of Willmore’s behaviour, with our awareness of the feminist movement against the double standards that society uses to judge women. Yet, in order for the play to succeed, the audience must enjoy Willmore. We do not need to approve of him; in fact a critique of his licentiousness is built into the structure of the play as his chaotic sensuality almost destroys the happiness of the other characters, and does destroy Angelica. Antonio, for example, is a scheming, dishonourable twotimer who marries for money, betrays Florinda the day before her wedding and inveigles Belvile to fight his duel for him. By contrast, Willmore is neither calculating nor corrupt. He is naive. He assumes that everyone is motivated by the same indomitable, sensual Will as himself. His evil is more a blind spot than active malice. Willmore lives completely in the present tense. This frees him from the dominant motivations of greed and politics which Behn loathes in social relations. Willmore tells Don Pedro, “A Woman’s Honour is not worth guarding when she has a Mind to part with it”. By accepting Hellena at face value without her fortune and despite her warnings of intended inconstancy, Willmore roves outside the conventional Restoration fears of cuckoldry and material poverty. It is this spontaneity and honesty of spirit that Aphra Behn loved in him and which the audience must grasp at the same time that they see his shameful, dangerous sexism is unacceptable. The two rovers, Willmore and Hellena, share the same propensities; both are frank about their temperaments. Hellena’s attitude to female sexuality is as natural as that of Willmore. She has a natural urge to have a man who she likes. In fact she appropriates masculine discourse in her attempt to escape the nunnery. Willmore is undoubtedly the rakish hero, a Cavalier and flirts with women without any qualms of conscience, but it is Hellena who seems to be the real rover in the play. Behn wants to crown her with success in her revolt against the father’s decision to confine her to a life of nunnery. Crisis in the
aristocracy- of which Pedro’s character is a function- is also furned on its head by his ultimate acceptance of Florinda and Belvile’s marriage. At this point, it may be argued that the Belvile-Florinda romance itself, though very generic and typical of comedies, is problematized through the repeated attempts at the rape of Florinda, which Belvile reacts to a little too mildly, considering he has been set up the ‘knight in shining armour’. Belvile’s friends act as typical rakes by mocking his love for Florinda and claiming that women could only be used for sexual needs. Blunt initially seems to be purely a stock figure- one often found in Restoration comedies. He is an English country gentleman, rich but foolish, a ‘country bumpkin’, fooled by a wily prostitute. His attempts at projecting himself as a wit evoke much laughter from the reader. However the same character later become a mouthpiece for violent, horrific misogyny and his speech directed at lorinda where he threatens to rape her, beat her up and hang her from a window, disrupts the harmless bumpkin stereotype.
It cannot be refuted that the play ends in rather typical ways, with the prostitute returning to her trade, and the virgins being awarded with marriage- a proverbial ‘happy ending’. However, all men, women and institutions pass through the marketplace and are valued, just as the text, and even its author, is. Through the carnival, Behn gives space to her characters to explore their true natures, albeit behind masks. To quote Anand Prakash in his essay, “”Designing” Women Socially and Market- Wise: Glimpses of the Restoration Strategy in The Rover’,“ Behn is not attempting in The Rover a typical Restoration comedy with fops and wits in the fray out to merely titillate us but a representation that focuses upon serious issues of freedom, identity and physicality, particularly with respect to women.”
Q. 3. Comment on the theme of Marriage and Prostitution in Aphra Behn’s The Rover.
Ans. For many years women have been involved in a never-ending fight for proper rights, for equality and independence. Nowadays, in the twentyfirst century, it seems that they have achieved a great number of the goals that the feminist movement so passionately promoted from the eighteenth century onwards. Women are no longer dependant on men, marriage is a choice rather than an obligation, and the acceptance of women in a larger variety of jobs has undoubtedly helped improve their status in society as it provided them with finantial independence.
However, the seventeenth century was a rather complicated time to be a woman. They had not many choices in life – they were maids, ladies, nuns or prostitutes. They were not expected to play any other role in society, and they were absolutely at the mercy of the men that owned them one way or another.
It is very clear that the theme of marriage is a constant in Aphra Behn’s play. Act I focuses on a conversation between two of the female character, Florinda and Hellena, about it. The fact that from the beginning marriage is already a question of discussion advances the importance of the topic in the story.
Although here we will only focus on two particular visions of marriage, it is important to point out that there are several thoughout the play. However, the two selected perspectives on the matter could be easily categorised among the most important because of their relevance in the development of the story.
The first vision of marriage that we will deal with is that of marriage as a form of submission of women’s will. There are two quotes that illustrate this very clearly: “With indignation; and how near soever my father thinks I am to marrying that hated object [Vincentio), I shall let him see I understand better what’s due to my beauty, birth, and fortune, and more to my soul, than to obey those unjust commands.” – Florinda (The Rover, I. i. 18-22)
In this first quote, Florinda expresses her opposition to arranged marriages. It was a common practice in the seventeenth century, especially among the higher classes as it is the case, that the father would be the responsible for the choice of husband. The fact that Florinda is openly against this practice proves that women were not as submissive as they might seem, but there was no other honorable way for them to be finantially independent, for they depended first on the father – or the brother, as in the play – and then on the husband.
– Related to this vision, here follows another quote to illustrate it: “I hate Vincentio, sir, and I would not have a man so dear to me as my brother follow the ill customs of our country and make a slave of his sister […]” – Florinda (The Rover, I. i. 62-65)
After stating her position about the matter of arranged marriages, Florinda compares this practice to slavery. The relationship between a male member of the family with the daughter or the sister is shown as similar to that of the master and the slave, respectively. In that sense, marriage is a mere transaction in which one part (the family, embodied in the figure of the brother in The Rover) obtains profit by selling or using the services of the other part (the lady).
It is suprising that a female character declares her position on these matters so severely and openly, since that was not very lady-like. However, it is important to highlight that women in the play have very strong personalities and step out of the standards of womanhood to some extent. а
The other vision of marriage that will be analysed is that of marriage as the dead of love. “Hold, hold, no bug words, child. Priest and Hymen! Prithee add a hang-man to ’em to make up the consort. No, no, we’ll have no vows but love, child, not witness but the lover; the kind deity enjoin naught but love and enjoy! Hymen and priest wait still upon portion and jointure. Love and beauty have their own ceremonies. Marriage is a certain bane to love as lending money is to friendship;
I’ll neither ask nor give a vow – though I could be contente to turn gipsy and become a left-handed bridegroom, to have the pleasure of working that great miracle of making a maid a mother, if you durst venture. ‘Tis upse gipsy that, and if I miss, I’ll lose my labour” – Willmore (The Rover, V. i. 433-443) This excerpt presents Willmore’s view of marriage. In order to fully understand it, it is necessary to provide a definition for the term bane. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, bane is “a slayer or murder; one who causes death or destruction of another.” Thus, Willmore condemns marriage as the responsible for the death of love. Ironically, Willmore accepts to marry Hellena at the end of the play.
— It is interesting to mention this particular vision of marriage, not only because it is present throughout the play but because despite of it, the ending is still a conventional one in Restoration comedies. The lovers – Willmore and Hellena – achieve their happy ending, which involves marriage.
The other theme that will be dealt with in this paper is prostitution in The Rover. It is undoubtedly one of the most important topics of the play, since one of the characters, Angellica nca, is a prostitute. There are several perspectives from which prostitution can be seen in the play. Here we will be dealing with two, one male and another female, by focusing on two quotations.
The first quote we will be paying attention to is the following:
– “Why yes, sir, they are whores, though they’ll neither entertain you with drinking, swearing, or bawdry; are whores in all those gay clothes and right jewels; are whores with those great houses richly furnished with velvet beds, store of plate, handsome attendance, and fine coaches; are whores, and arrant ones” – Belvile (The Rover, II. i. 71-75)
Belvile’s statement implies that every woman, despite her status in society, is a whore. If she behaves like a prostitute, then that is exactly what she will be forever. Once a whore, always a whore.
Not only Belvile thinks that, but also most of the male characters in The Rover. Throughout the play, there is a certain generalization about women and their status. One example of this is the scene where Blunt tries to rape Florinda simply because he has been previously cheated by “a fine ladylike whore” (The Rover, IV. v. 8). The actions of one particular woman have repercusions on another, thus asuming that all women are the same and behave the same way Also, it is relevant to mention the ambivalence in the use of the word wench. Every single woman in the play, lady or not, are referred to as wenches. The term may refer to a young woman or to a prostitute. That choice of words might not be as random as it seems, and in that case it would support the idea that every woman is a whore until proved otherwise.
The second vision of prostitution focuses on the perspective of Angellica Bianca, and on the reason why she is in that position.
“But inconstancy’s the sin of all mankind, therefore I’m resolved that nothing but gold shall charm my heart”- Angellica Bianca (The Rover, II.1.137-138) If we focus only on this quote in isolation, it is very clear that Angellica’s situation has been a choice she made herself. In fact, it is by being a whore that she gets to be the only finantially independent woman in the play.
However, taking into account the situation of women in the seventeenth century, it could be a question of discussion whether Angellica decided to become a prostitute by personal choice or if it is merely a decision she had to make not to depend on any man.
In any case, the figure of the prostitute in The Rover presents a different type of woman. Although she is regarded as a whore, Angellica stands in a certain position of power, for all men want to have sex with her, but not all of them can due to the high cost of her services. When Angellica falls in love with Willmore and gives herself to him for free, that delusional powerful position vanishes.
There is another matter that should be discussed here as well. The objectification of women is inherent to prostitution, and as such it is present in The Rover. However, in the play it seems to be certain switch of roles between women and men, and there are two particular cases that could be categorised as cases of objectification of men.
On the one hand, there is the scene where Hellena expresses very openly that she just wants to go to the Carnival to find a man with whom she can have sex. On the other hand, there is the character of Willmore. At one point, he lays with Angellica Bianca and gets money from her afterwards.
Although she gives it to him out of love, Willmore does not have any
feelings for her whatsoever, thus he is given money in exchange for sex. These two moments can be easily considered examples of objectification of men, since in both cases they are perceived as mere pawns in the game of sex, more openly in the first case and more subtly in the second.
Marriage and prostitution walk hand in hand in the play. In fact, it could be said that one and the other are two different ways of debasement of the identity of women.
In the first section of this paper, the one devoted to marriage, we have dealt with Florinda’s opinion about the subject and with her vision of arranged marriages as a form of slavery. In the second one, Angellica’s decision of being a prostitute was questioned as to whether it was conditioned by the situation of women at the time.
Taking into account that they were absolutely dependent on men to survive, it is clear that their role in society was to do as they were told despite what their status was. Wife or prostitute, they need men to have money. In fact, arranged marriages – those that we are dealing with were a sheer business transaction between the girl’s father and the future husband. Women had no say at all. They were sold to the highest bid, and it would condition the rest of their lives. Prostitution, on the other hand, presented itself as an option for women without many prospects in life to be able to survive, to be financially independent.
In conclusion, to some extent it could be said that marriage was a socially accepted form of prostitution, and the latter was a form of survival for women in a world where nothing was really their choices. In both cases, women are deprived of identity, being “the wife of” or just “a whore”. Aphra Behn herself was sometimes seen as a prostitute for being a public figure, a writer. By criticising marriage and presenting Angellica Bianca as a strong character at the beginning, it could be stated that she was also questioning the functioning of society, and the role of women in it, in Restoration times.
Q. 4. Comment on the theme of Trickery, Marriage and Femininity in The Rover in Aphra Behn’s The Rover.
Ans. Aphra Behn is accepted as the first female professional writer, who made a living out of writing. She is highly acclaimed by Virginia Woolf in her essay A Room of One’s Own in the following way:
All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn, which is, most scandalously but rather appropriately, in Westminster Abbey, for it was she who camned them the right to speak their minds. (Woolf, 2000, p. 50)
Woolf talks about Behn as a prominent literary figure that paved the way for female writers to speak up their minds. Her writing and publishing on equal terms with men was a milestone in women’s writing. Similarly, Goreau (1980) suggests “Mrs Behn imposed herself on history without precedent: she was the first woman to become a professional writer and the authenticity conjured up by the term ‘professional writer’ and the term ‘women writer'” (p. 69). How come did a female writer in the Restoration era become a professional writer given that there used to be limited opportunities for women to achieve this? Behn had strong connections with the monarchy due to her family connection with the Culpeppers. In fact, it is disputed that she worked as a political spy on behalf of Charles II. She was a Tory writer, and advocator of Charles II and his brother James II. (Wikipedia) Her politically advantageous position must have had a great effect on her position as a female writer. Additionally, she wrote profitable genres and marketable texts. For example, her plays coincided with the time theatre became the prominent figure in Restoration era. In her plays, she handled themes that were common to people living in cities, which were economy, marriage and the state.
Despite her politically advantageous position, Behn is still a prominent literary figure in that she dealt with controversial issues like female sexuality, politics and economy at a time that women rarely published at all. She faced accusations like ‘whore-writer’. In addition to the hardship of being a female writer, she also experienced the hardship of being a comedy writer, a genre which was used mainly by male writers. Comedy was a genre that was looked down on as being an inferior form of drama. For example, in 1671, Dryden said about comedy “(….) in its own nature, inferior to all sorts of dramatic writing. Low comedy requires conversation with the vulgar.” (as cited in Wiseman, 1996, p. 9) Due to the religious tribulations of the time, drama was expected to deliver moral messages to the audience and morality was a big issue in plays. However, Behn defended her usage of comedy genre and argued that plays should not necessarily bear a moral message: “Our latter plays have not done much more towards the amending of men’s morals, or their Wit, than hath the frequent Preaching, which this last age hath been pester’d with.” (as cited in Wiseman, 1996, p. 11) In her comedies, Behn aimed not to question ethical messages but deal with the controversial issues of her time like sexual and political intrigue. This added to her reputation at the same time increasing opposition towards her plays. For example, her play The Luckey Chance was condemned ‘not fit for ladies’. In the preface to this play, she defends her writing, which can be accepted as a great inspiration for female writers:
all If I must not, because of my sex, have this freedom, but that you will to your selves; I lay down my Quill , and you shall hear no more of me, no, not so much as to make Comparison, because I will be kinder to my Brother of the Pen, than they have been to a defenseless Woman; for I am not content to write for a third day only. I value fame as much as if I hade been born a hero; and if you rob me of that, I can retire from the ungrateful World, and scorn its fickle Favours. (Todd, p. 59)
Behn’s comedies of intrigue tend to be set in London. Many were city comedies that dealt with urban life, and presented political, gender and economic struggle in an urban setting, which was familiar to the audience. On the other hand, her tragedies have a different structure and foreign setting. Each play includes an insolvable problem, like love between siblings that ends with a surprise resolution. In Behn’s plays, a dynamic relationship between the play and the audience is assumed. The audience is presented with the conflict and learns more than the characters do about the conflict by means of asides. Behn does not give a clear message, but the audience is expected to deduce it and make their own comment. It is hard to pinpoint the playwright’s real opinion and argument. Wiseman (1996) comments on
We can read them for their rich contradictions rather than their coherences and certainties. Behn’s writings both embody the contradictions of society and, at the same time, offer a critique of it. As texts emerging in crucial moment in modernity, they pose problems that were all important when she wrote: of the nature and authority of the state, of desire, marriage, money and language. (p. 9)
Behn’s plays as:
The Rover or The Banish’d Cavaliers is accepted as the most acknowledged example of Behn’s plays and Restoration comedy. The play includes multiple plot lines, which are about the love affairs of a group of Englishmen in Naples. Willmore, Frederick and Blunt court women they meet in the carnival. Angelica is a famous Courtesan that falls in love for the first time. Florinda and Hellena aim to resist to the life imposed on them and go after their desires. Those characters’ roads collide in the carnival time and they go through a series of confusion and courtship. The play ends with three marriages. Due to popularity of The Rover, Behn wrote a sequel for the play, which includes Willmore’s life after the marriage. The characters’ relation to each other and their stance in the play can be analyzed from the perspectives of trickery, marriage and femininity.
The setting of the play is a carnival. Florinda and Hellena take advantage of the carnival by being disguised as gypsies; thus, they get the chance to approach the man they like. By getting rid of their identity, they also get rid of the social constraints and the expectations imposed on them by their family. They can be anyone they like and act as they wish. Under the disguise of gypsies, Florinda is not the girl to marry a man her brother approves and Hellena is not the girl to become a nun. Hellena really enjoys the freedom that comes with disguise, as she says:
That which all the World does, as I am told, be as mad as the rest, and take all innocent Freedoni-Sister, you’ll go too, will you not? Come prithee be not sad- We’ll out roit twenty Brothers, if you’ll be ruled by mie-Come put off this dull huniour with your Clothes, and assume one as gay, and as fanstastick as the Dress my Cousin Valeria and I have provided, and let’s ramble. (p. 195)
Hellena regards disguise as a form of resistance towards impositions of patriarchy. In return, trickery and disguise serves Hellena’s aims as she marries the rover and avoids going to a nunnery in the end. Hellena’s trickery can be juxtaposed with that of Angelica, the famous courtesan. Angelica was the unobtainable one in the beginning. As her interest in Willmore turns into love, she becomes predictable and loses her opacity. When she makes compromises for Willmore, like giving money to him, she stops being an object of desire. On the other hand, thorugh disguise and trickery Hellena manipulates Willlmore and marries him. However, trickery and disguise do not benefit the female characters all the time, as it can be seen in Florinda’s case. Her disguise conceals her identity, and she barely escapes a gang rape including her brother to rape her first.
While female characters enjoy the freedom of disguise, male characters are expected to interpret these disguises and make wise decisions in order not to be tricked. Trickery creates ambiguity in the play. Who is gypsy, prostitude or a lady is not clear. Male characters of the play are expected to solve the enigma of disguise, masquerade and carnival. Willmore, as his name suggests, is a man that wants more and more and goes along with the appearance. He does not give much credit to emotions. He sleeps with Angelica just because she promotes herself as unobtainable. He accepts marriage with Hellena because she is rich, most probably. Therefore, he makes both financial and sexual profit. Blunt, on the other hand, is interested in women sexually, which leads him to read signs of disguise incorrectly. For example, he mistakes a prostitute for a lady; he gets robbed of all his clothing.
Since the first part of The Rover ends with three marriages, one of the main themes of the play is marriage. Although all characters get married with the one they like, those marriages are not happy marriages in the traditional sense that occurs in the end of comedies. The couples are formed from the dissolution of unhappy partnerships. Florinda wants to break away from her brother’s insistence upon her marrying a man she does not love. Hellena also wants to get away from the nun role given to her by her family. Both characters regara marriage as a form of escape. As for Willmore, marriage is of no concern. Marriage corrupts the relationship between a man and woman by forcing them to give promises, as he confesses:
Marriage is as certain a Bane to Love, as lending Money is to Friendship: I’ll neither ask nor give a Vow, tho I could be content to turn Gipsy, and become a Left-hand Bridegroom, to have the pleasure of working that great Miracle of making a Maid a Mother, if you duřst venture; ’tis upset Gipsy that, and if I miss, I’ll lose my Labour. (p. 65)
However, he accepts marrying Hellena. He is interested not in her affection, but her fortune. It is not difficult to guess that he won’t stay faithful to her for long because of his flirtatious and adventurous nature. In the second part Rover, it is revealed that Hellena died after the first month of the marriage and Willmore is looking for new love interests, having spent all of Hellena’s money. of The Hutner (1993) argues that the first part of the play depicts a traditional marriage in which both parts act in accordance with their own profit while the second part shows the results of such an ideology. Through the failed marriage of Hellena and Willmore, Behn denounces arranged marriages in which “the husband gets rich while the wife stays only within the limits of her socially prescribed role” (Jung, 2011, p. 58). Marriage is closely related to the financial concerns. Hellena, Florinda and Valeria look forward to becoming the spouse of an English cavalier. Similarly, in the second part of The Rover, Ariadne eventually complies with her parents’ wish and accepts marrying her cousin Beaumond so that the estate and wealth stays within the family.
Another main issue in The Rover is femininity, which can be analyzed in the female characters’ stance in the play. Markley (2007) argues that Behn is a pioneering woman writer due to her resistance to and protests against “the endemic antifeminism of her time” (p. 141). By means of subverting ‘proper’ feminine behavior, Behn makes her female characters ridicule male authority figures. Through disguise and trickery, female characters test male characters. For example, pretending to be a lady, Lucetta robs Blunt of his clothings, leaving him naked and fooled.
Behn challenges the accepted female figure of her time by giving voice to the women marginalized by the society, the prostitutes. Angelica in the first part and La Nuche in the second part are prostitutes. They are not outcast characters; in contrast, they are powerful female figures. Though Angelica cannot win Willmore’s love back, she has the guts to confront him and tell him to actualize his promises. In the first part of The Rover, the virgin wins over the prostitute, as Hellena is the one that marries Willmore. However, in the second part, the winning side is the prostitute, La Nuche; in other words, Behn subverts the roles in the second part of her play. Both the desiring and prostitute woman wins, which is quite radical in contrast to the traditional ideal female figure. Additionally, by means of disguise, the lines between the virgin and prostitute are blurred, and both female figures are brought to the equal terms.
Female will is the central theme of the play. Female characters voice their own desires and the future they vision for themselves, like men. Florinda, Valeria and Hellena are given the opportunity to make their own destiny. They freely speak up their own mind, but they have to find subtle ways to get rid of the role imposed on them by the patriarchal society. Disguise and carnival give them this opportunity, and they chase their own desires, marital or economical. Florinda is “designed for a husband”, and Hellena is “designed for a nunnery” (p. 18). However, neither of them accepts those roles. Florinda states “I hate Vincentio, and I would not have a Man so dear to me as my Brother follow the ill customs of our Country, and make a Slave of his Sister-and Sir, my Father’s Will, I’m sure, you may divert” (p. 4). Similarly, Hellena is sure that she will marry the one she likes. She will not give up on the pleasures of the world and confine herself to a nunnery:
I don’t intend every he that likes me shall have men, but he that I like: I should have staid in the Nunnery still, if I had lik’d my Lady Abbess as well as she lik’d me. No, I can thence not (as my wise Brother imagines) to take an eternal Farewel of the World, but to lone and to be belov’d; and I will be belov’d, or I’ll get one of your Men, so I will. (p. 43)
Hunter (1993) points out that female characters are desiring subjects, not passive objects. Hellena and Angelica chase after the person like. In contrast to the expected female attitude in courtship, they are the active part of the relationship as well. Women are not objects but desiring subjects of love. For instance, Hellena tells Florinda that she will not wait for Willmore to come to her, but she will go after him. She says “Sister, there’s your Englishman, and with him a handsom proper Fellow- I’ll to him, and instead of telling him his Fortune, try my own” (p. 9). Angelica also states her expectation from men: “No matter, I’m not displeas’d with their rallying; their Wonder feeds my Vantiy, and he that wishes to buy, gives me more Pride, than he that gives my Price can make me pleasure” (p. 129). They are not selfless object of courtship, but active participators with expectations and standards.
In spite of the revolutionary representation of femininity, Behn reflects her time’s outlook on females as well. Females are represented as a commodity both in public and marriage. Jung (2011) argues that Hellena and Florinda are seen as objects, “the value of which is determined by the dowry they can bring to their future husband” (p. 43). Additionally, Hellena wants to run away from the patriarchal oppression in her family, but in her marriage she suffers from patriarchy as well. Willmore obtains all of her possession and spends it right after her death. Ariadne, in the second part, is seen as the assurance of keeping the family property; that’s why, her parents persuade her to marry her cousin. Lady Galliard, in the second part, define women’s role in marriage, which is no more than an object of desire and entertainment for the male:
Have I promis’d then to be, A Whore? A Whore! Oh let me not think of that! A man’s convenience, his leisure hours, his bed of Ease, To loll and tumble on at idle times; The Slave, the Hackney of his lawless Lust! A loath’d Extinguisher of filthy flames, Made use of, and thrown by.- Oh infamous! (p. 228)
Behn’s The Rover has a prominent role in the Restoration stage in that it is a representation of comedy genre of 17th century and Behn’s playwright traits. It is also important because themes like trickery, marriage and femininity are handled in this play and a close glimpse upon the society’s look on such issues is provided. Additionally, The Rover includes Behn’s cutting-edge views on marriage and femininity that may sound radical to even contemporary readers.
Q. 5. Justify the title of the play The Rover or Banished Cavalier by Aphra Behn.
Ans. The Rover, published and first produced in 1677, was Aphra Behn’s most successful play. The original full title, The Rover; or, The Banished Cavalier, indicates that the play was a tribute to the formerly exiled cavalier and newly reinstated King, Charles II. The rover of the title is Willmore, an exiled English sea captain on shore leave to enjoy the carnival, or Hellena, a young woman hoping to experience life and love before ng committed to a convent by her brother (Don Pedro). These two rovers-Willmore and Hellena-fall in love amid witty debates and sexual maneuvering. Willmore has many parallels to Charles II, whose exploits during his twenty-year banishment from England were well known. Charles II enjoyed the play so much that he commissioned a private viewing of it.
Restoration plays usually had elaborate subtitles. Aphra Behn’s The Rover or The Banished Cavaliers also follows this tradition. The play is set during the Interregnum (1642-1660), when many royalists referred to “Cavaliers” (as opposed to their adversaries the ‘Roundheads’ in the Civil War) had followed Prince Charles into exile. The Rover or The Banished Cavaliers has leading male characters-Willmore, Belvile and Frederick-all supports of the king in exile. The word ‘rover’ has multiple suggestions-not someone who wandered around the world, but also a pirate and someone with a roving eye, an inconstant lover or a male flirt. Aphra Behn wrote a sequel to the play, The Rover Part II in 1681. But it is not as good as the earlier one. It takes up the story of the Rover, Willmore, after the death of his wife Hellena. He is once more on the lookout for love and adventure. He has the choice of marrying for money, or living in pennilessness with a prostitute. He rejects the bondage of love, and argues that materialistic considerations like money and status should not control desire.
In morals and wit Willmore was based on Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, Aphra Behn’s friend and patron. The protagonist’s name “Willmore” itself is a play on the word “Wilmot”. We can say of Willmore what John Dennis said of Dorimant, the hero of The Man of the Mode or Sir Fopling Flutter(1676) by George Etherege, that he “had in him several of the qualities of Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, as his Wit, his amorous Temper, the Charms that he had for the fair Sex, his falsehood, and his Inconstancy”. Rochester was considered the wittiest of his day. Willmore has no misgivings about declaring his healthy sexual appetite. He plays with the meaning of bush (the rose plant and female genitals) when he wants to strike a bargain with the women dressed as courtesans parading on the streets during the carnival, who indicate that they are for hire on a monthly basis by pinning notices on their breasts carrying the message, “Roses for every month” and baskets of flowers in their hands. Willmore addresses one of the women and asks her where these roses grow as he would like to pluck and some of them in his bed. The woman warns him, “Beware of such roses, sir.” He dismisses her warning by saying:
A pox of fear. I’ll be baked with thee between a pair of sheets, and that’s thy proper still, so I might but strew such roses over me and under me. Fair one, would you would give me leave to gather at your bush this idle month; I would go near to make somebody
smell of it all the year round.
Florinda, Hellena and Valeria enter, dressed as gypsies. Willmore is straightaway attracted towards Hellena, and her wit is as charming as that of Willmore. He frankly refers to her the months of abstinence he has suffered on board ship: I am come from the sea, child, and Venus not being propitious to me in her element, I have a world of love in store. would be good-natured and take some on’t off my hands? ould you Earlier Fredrick had declared, “No friend to love like a long voyage at sea” seeing Willmore’s exasperated pursuit for a woman. Willmore puts it more wittily, bemoaning the fact that Venus Aphrodite, the goddess of love, born of the foam of the sea, affords no opportunities for love on voyages at sea. Willmore advances many arguments in favour of free sex. Enjoying life of love for the moment (Carpie Diem motif) was a favourite theme of the poetry of the seventeenth century (of the Metaphysical School). This is found expressed in lyrics like Robert Herrick’s “Gather ye rosebuds while you may”, and Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress.”
In order to justify his rakishness, Willmore does not spare even religion. When Willmore is told that Hellena is to become a nun, he quotes the example of Jephtha’s daughter whose sacrifice was not accepted because she was a virgin. He alludes to the biblical story to convince Hellena that, “Tis more meritorious to leave the world when thou hast tasted the pleasure on’t. Then it will be a virtue to thee, which now will be pure ignorance.” Hellena is concerned with the main theme of the play, sexuality, and asks Willmore, “Is there no difference between leave to love me and leave to lie with me?” And Willmore answers that “They were made to go together.”
Willmore is “The Rover,” whose only virtue is inconstancy. He proudly gives out to Hellena that his name is “Robert the Constant” which is highly ironical in view of his constant roving habit. As he tells Angellica Bianca that he wants to be a free bird flying from branch to branch to oblige birds that would make love to him. He would think of returning to her roost as a tribute to her love for him after finishing his rounds with other birds. He denounces her accusation of inconstancy of him by saying that no man can be expected to be constant in making love to women. He is sorry that the old colonel has spoiled her too much by his flattery to compensate for his impotency. But he will not flatter her for he has given his best to her as she has done to him. When she asks him to justify why she should not kill him. he tells her that he cannot say much about it except that she would be robbing of his good services to women if she does so.
Willmore lives for the moment and talks straight from the heart. His fascinating frankness charm not only Hellena, but the seasoned and highly rated courtesan, Angellica Bianca. His charm is irresistible in spite of his deviant, wayward behaviour. He easily slips out of embarrassing situation with the help of his facile wit. He is a typical Restoration rake because he is surprisingly honest in his utterances, when he fells Hellena masquerading as a gipsy. He tells her that he has come from the sea and he is love-starved as Venus the goddess of love does not provide enough scope for love on board the ships during long voyages on the sea. He has a heavy load of love in store and he wants Hellena to help him unload some of it off his hands. He finds virtue a disease in women and he willfully flouts sexual mores as he treads the path of fun and pleasure as someone born to pursue joy for its own sake. He is equally attracted to all women, be it the courtesan Angellica, the prattling “sweet gipsy” Hellena or the virtuous and upright Florinda. He is a poor English cavalier supporting Prince Charles in exile and there is a “certain forward impudence” about him. He is aggressive and outgoing as well as strong and manly. Willmore is unable to focus on one relationship at a time, for he is a genuine pleasureseeker, an excited participant in a carnival,
Hellena complements Willmore in many ways. In her attitude, she is driven by the natural urge to enjoy the company of men although her father and brother have planned a life in the nunnery for her. She defies them by being contemptuous of the accepted notions of patriarchal behaviour. As her brother, Don Pedro stands to gain her legacy of three hundred thousand crowns if she leads the life of a nun, he is constantly reminding of her chosen calling but she is candid enough to tell him justifying her choice of marrying Willmore instead of languishing as nun: “Why, I have considered the matter, brother, and the three hundred thousand crowns my uncle left me, and you can keep from me, will be better laid out in love than in religion, and turn to as good an account.”
Hellena is bold and daring and she questions her brother Don Pedro about the choice of the old Don Vincentio as a suitor selected by her father and him for her sister Florinda. Hellena describes in graphic detail the tragic plight of a young girl married off to an old man, when she has to “lie in a wide, motheaten bedchamber with furniture in fashion in the reign of King Sancho the First, the bed in which his forefathers lived and died in.” The young bride had to undress the sixty-year old ‘carcass’ of her husband at night as his valet and then muzzle through his thick beard to find his lips, which she is condemned to kiss “for three-score years, and all for a jointure.” I had rather see her in the Hostel de Dieu, to waste her youth in vows, and be a handmaid to lazars and cripples than to lose it in such a marriage” because “such a wedlock would be worse than adultery with another man”.
Hellena matches Willmore in her wit. When he says that he is “Robert the Constant”, her repartee is: “I am Hellena the Inconstant.” She tells him: “We are both of one humour: I am as inconstant as you, for I have considered, captain that a handsome woman has a great deal to do while her face is good. For then is our harvest time to gather friends, and I in these days of my youth catch a fit of foolish constancy, I were undone: ’tis loitering by daylight in our great journey. Therefore, I declare I’ll allow but one year for love, and one year for hate; and then go hang yourself, for I profess myself gay, the kind, and the inconstant. The devil in’t this won’t please you!” She pursues him and discovers all his haunts and mistresses, and insults him at every given opportunity so much so that Willmore exclaims, “Egad, I was never clawed away with broadsides from any female before.” But he concedes, “Thou hast one virtue I adore-good nature. I hate a coy demure mistress.”
Hellena possesses an individuality. She uses her wit to reject a life languishing in a monastery and prefer the well-trodden path of ‘love’ and marriage. She is a female rover who, like Willmore, is driven by a natural desire to have unrestricted fun as a passionate young woman. But, unlike Willmore, she desires a lasting relationship in love-followed by marriage; she persistently bargains for stability in the bond. She tells Willmore that a rash and free-love without the sanction of matrimony would land her into disrepute and illbegotten children. She would become his mistress in total when he the father of his son ties the knot with her, the daughter of her mother. Though Hellena is adventurous, she knows where to draw the line. Her character is marked by a sharp awareness of the storm of female desire brewing within and the fickleness of the male sentiment without. By her beauty, charm, wit and vivaciousness, she is able to make the rover, Captain Willmore cast his anchor and settle on the port of marriage with her.
Q. 6. Examine the appropriateness of the carnival setting for Aphra Behn’s The Rover.
Ans. For her 1677 play The Rover Aphra Behn changed the setting of Thomas Killigrew’s 1654 closet drama Thomaso from Spanish Inquisition to Neapolitan carnival. The carnival setting serves as a metaphor for Behn’s deconstruction of patriarchal privilege. In the carnival world of The Rover signifiers break from their former moorings in phallic discourse as Behn liberates the female characters to signify solely themselves. Thus they escape the domination maintained by that “signification (that) serves to sustain relations of domination.”
Behn’s shift of setting, while it provides a locus of genuine chaotic liberation, also makes it possible for her to satirize masculine notions of carnival liberty. For while the Puritan commonwealth was viewed by Royalists like Behn as an oppressive regime like the Spanish Inquisition, Behn makes it clear that carnivalesque freedom, as it was understood by the Cavaliers, locked women into a sexual double bind that the Puritan preachers inflicted on women under the guise of liberating them.
To his Royalist supporters, the return of Charles II, who withdrew the oppressive Puritan ban on festivity and carnality, was associated with a celebration of physical delight and with a dissolution of hierarchy. The Restoration was even imaged in terms referring to Adam’s prelapsarian garden. Graham Percy cites Abraham Cowley’s Restoration Ode as an example of Cavalier confidence that the reign of Charles II has restored the Golden Age. The diary of Samuel Pepys also abounds in such imagery. Descriptions of the enthusiastic followers of Charles II abound with images of carnival as it was manifested in the old British festive culture “the heathenish and popish revellings (and) sinful merry-making” that the Puritan preachers and writers had striven (as early as the reign of Elizabeth I) to wipe out.
David Underdown observes that the “Restoration was a victory… for adherents of traditional festive culture.” Most of whom were Royalists and many of whom were female. But for Behn, as an analysis of The Rover reveals, disillusionment followed this euphoria. Behn’s attraction to carnival is consistent with what some have claimed is her radical feminist outlook, and thus it significantly differs from Cavalier festive practices. George Woodcock contends that she had been radicalized by her experiences in Surinam. It made her critical of law, religion, slavery, racism, and the institution of marriage and led her to assert that women should have equal opportunities with men.
Behn had a strongly positive view of female sexuality and a taste for wit and bawdiness. This taste put her at odds with those who were promoting (What Janet Todd calls) “a sentimental construction of femininity, a state associated with modesty, passivity , chastity , moral elevation and suffering.” Behn harshly satirized the predominantly Whig promoters of this construction, associating them with the Puritan oppressors. . But the deconstruction Behn performs in The Rover reveals her a critic not only of Whig prudery but also of Cavalier carnival, which elevated male bodies and masculine sexual desire but denied women right to their own bodies and their own desire.
In the epilogue to The Rover Behn attacks the Whigs, who were strongly challenging Royalist power in the 1670s, by associating them with the repressive Commonwealth:
With canting rule you would the stage refine, And to dull method all our sense confine, With th’ insolence of the commionwealth you rule.
Cant is mechanical, predictable, monotonous discourse, unlike the fluid, unpredictable, transgressive, and dehirachizing language of carnival. Against “canting rule” Behn sets
A popish carnival! A masquerade!
The devil’s in’t if this please the nation In these our blessed times of reformation.
The language of carnival is, in its multiplicity, in its fluidity, and in its absence of hierarchy, not “popish”- that is, not representative of masculine dominance and authority-but rather suggestive of the joyful expression of feminine pleasure and desire that French feminists, in an adaptation of Roland Barthes’s concept, call jouissance, an archaic form of expressivity originating in the body of the mother.”
Given the revolutionary character of carnival as understood by Behn, the problem with male revelers is that, fixated in their phallicism, they do not carry the revolution of carnival far enough. It is not surprising, then, that in The Rover Behn is not content to undermine only Whig pretensions. Her carnival setting provides her with an opportunity to create her own carnivalesque displacements, exposing how arbitrary the male system of signification is. Virginia Woolf has likened the pen in the hand of a woman writer to a pickaxe breaking apart the male-constructed narrative, in which women play no part except in relation to men. Woolf asks her reader to consider the oddity of an Other narrative, in which men are represented only in relationships with women-as lovers, husbands, fathers, brothers. Ben creates such narrative, defined by the Other, in the first scene of The Rover. The play opens with female characters wittily deconstructing patriarchy and discussing men solely with respect to feminine desire. Hellena praises Belvile, Florinda’s lover, because he is “gay and so handsome.” Hellena, whose convent upbringing seems only to have strengthened her libido, wishes for “some mad companion or other that will spoil my devotion.” Hellena’s is not silenced later by the arrival of her brother Don Pedro and his train. Even Florinda, who is less outspoken than her sister, bravely condemns the marriage that has been arranged for her by her father: “I hate Vincetia, sir, and I would not have a man so dear to me as my brother follow the ill customs of our country and make a slave of his sister.” With similar boldness, Hellena transgresses the boundaries between religious and carnal discourse and displaces the one/Other, soul/ body, and male/ female hierarchy. Saint becomes her signifier for lover, prayer for seduction, and the female, not the male, becomes sexually active party: “You may chance to be mistaken in my way of devotion. A nun! Yes, I am like to make a fine nun! I have an excellent humour for a grate! No, I’ll have a saint of my own to pray shortly, if I like any that dares venture on me.” Such outspoken challenges to masculine and ecclesiastical authority lead their brother Don Pedro to declare both of them “mad!” The women, however, rightly associate madness with carnival jouissance. Despite Don Pedro’s order,”Take her hence and lock her up all this Carnival,” they escape, disguised as gypsies, Europe’s dark rovers, to “be mad as the rest.” Outside the logical syntax of patriarchal discourse that Luce Irigaray views as “a means of masculine … self-production” is madness, that is, an “other” (carnival) syntax, which is lacking, repressed, censured” but which rescues them from destruction.
In carnival the bodily element is “deeply positive.” Indecent, bawdy expressiveness are “so many sparks of the carnival bonfire which renews the world.” The carnivalesque elevation of carnality in general and of feminine sexuality in particular is illustrated in The Rover by two processions, the first composed of female carnival celebrants, the second of men. Both the women, who wear and carry roses, and the men whose bodies are covered with horns, symbolize the displacement of phallic discourse by a body language that dissolves the hierarchical male/ female binary and privileges feminine jouissance.
Behn’s procession of horned men recalls English mummers pageants, a carnival form with which Behn was doubtless familiar and whose origins Alan Brody traces to pre-Christian agricultural rituals based (as Marija Gimbustas and others have noted) in the worship of the Great Goddess. Brody notes that the custom of horn dancing has continued in England into modern times and being selected to dance wearing hors is considered an honour. Horned animals were sacred to the Goddess, and an ancient Sumerian myths suggests that both the rose and the horn may be female gential symbols. The vulva of Innana, Queen of Heaven and Earth, was referred to as “the horn”. Weimann also traces in mummers’ plays, which are marked by topsy-turvy elements of in language and structure, ”the reflections of more primitive society still fairly homogeneous in its propriety and class structure.”
Willmore seems to revive these ancient associations when he denies that the rose and the horn, both signifiers of female desire and power, signify disgrace. He replaces the pejorative meanings with more ancient, honourable, and religious meaning. Unfortunately, Willmore’s later actions with respect to Angellica and Florinda make it clear that his promising displacement of the pejorative meaning of horns does not displace the male/female hierarchy, nor does it liberate women from a moral code designed to deny them desire and to keep them in their places. In fact, Willmore and Blunt think and act in nearly identical ways. Behn’s text, however, is subversive: it performs a carnivalesque displacement by exposing both Whigs and Tories, Puritans and Cavallers, as upholders of a violent, hierarchical gender ideology.
Q. 7. Attempt a character sketch of Hellena in Aphra Behn’s The Rover.
Ans. The happenings in The Rover revolve around Willmore, Hellena, Angellica, Florinda and Belvile. Among these characters, it is Hellena who chiefly appeals to us though of Willmore to whom Alpha Behn has referred in the title. Hellena is young, attractive, talkative and innocent. Being young she lacks that fund of knowledge and experience which could press upon her the necessity to circumspect. However, she is surrounded by people and thing that oppress her ebullience. On the introductory page of the containing the dramatis personae, Hellena is described as “a gay young woman designed for a nun.” We immediately notice a contradiction here. Obviously, “gay” in the description contradicts the behaviour expected of a nun and sets the background in the play for contests and battles that would suit a ‘female rover.’ a person in gaiety and pleasurable affairs. “Designed” on the other hand indicates the plan socially hatched through a combination of economic interests.
Hellena resents her father’s decision to make her a nun. She makes it very plain to her sister Florinda that just as she does not want to marry Old Don Vincentio, she too does not want to end up her life as a nun. Being sexually mature and attractive she is curious to explore what love is all about: Prithee tell nie, what does thou see about me that is unfit for love ? Have I not a world of youth? A humor gay? A beauty passable? A vigor desirable? Well shaped? Clean limbed? Sweet breathed? And sense enough to how all these ought to be enıployed to the
best advantage? Yes, I do and will …
She accuses her brother Don Pedro that besides being not satisfied with his evil intention sending her to convent and waste her life there as a nun he also wants to ruin the life of Florinda by forcing her to marry Don Vincentio, a living carcass. She questions her brother about the suitability of the match, the rich old Don Vincentio, chosen by their father for Florinda. Firing a salvo of witty satire she graphically describes the consequences of such an unequal match. This makes her brother Don Pedro call her a ‘wild cať. He is at his wits ends when she visualizes the horrible life that her sister Florinda has to spend the rest of her life if she were to marry the old Don Vencentio.
Hellena would neither be a nun, nor have such a match. Even though her brother orders the girls’ governess Callis to lock Hellena up in a room till the end of the Carnival. But Hellena manages slip out with Florinda and their cousin Valeria all dressed in the habit of a gypsies in search of love during the Carnival: “Nay, I’m resolved to provide myself this Carnival, if there be e’er a handsome proper fellow of my humour.” She falls in love with the English cavalier and sea- captain Willmore, the libertine rake, and retrieves him from inconstancy and weaning him away from the possessive love of the most beautiful
a Hellena complements Willmore in many ways. She is driven by the natural urge to enjoy the company of men and is contemptuous of accepted norms of behaviour. She not only encourages her sister Florinda to flout the wishes of their father or brother but to follow the dictates of her heart to choose the man she likes. The Church has come to define Hellena;s attitude in a negative way.Whatever is associated with it is to be fiercely rebutted. That is how she regards the fateful aspect of the life of a nun ‘designed for her by others. She does not like to languish behind the walls of the Church as a nun. The clarity and firmness with which she deals with the theme of ‘virtuous’ life in the church and the alternative way in which she charts her course of love-life make her
tiful and highly-quoting courtesan Angellica Bianca of the city of Naples.
Willmore’s adorable companion with respect to the theme of a roving persona. Still, Hellena is not a mere replication of Willmore. Aphra Behn invests her with an individuality deriving both from a natural desire to have unrestricted fun and passionate womanly resistance because she has nothing to love. Hellena typifies the revolt of the younger daughter in the English patriarchal family who uses her wit to reject the choice of the calling of a nun designed by her father (and brother with his vested interests to usurp her fortune) to follow her own instincts in pursuing the man of her choice. Hellena’s appeal as a female rover becomes a contradiction of terms because she also faces the impossibility of being a rover in the sense Willmore is. Her terms remain confined to a lasting relationship in love followed by marriage. That is why Willmore strays away and comes back to her many a time, while on her side. she persistently bargains for stability in the bond. Willmore is captivated by her special charm but is drawn towards other women almost equally enough. Beingʻland-locked’, Hellena takes us into the territory of seventeenth-century social structure because the role of the rover in her case is not all that easy or enjoyable, but it will pass muster only in theory. And the theory of the female rover is made to work on the plane of wit. It would be useful compare Willmore and Hellena’s creative use of words, In the case of Willmore, the speech assumes a charming colour because of its frankness and innocence, while Hellena’s speech is marked by a sharp awareness of the storm of female desire brewing within her.
Much of Hellena’s background and even a few of her lines are culled from the speeches of the good courtesans in Thomaso-that is, from Angellica and Paulina. The detail about her nunnery upbringing ties her to Paulina, who likewise was “bred sometimes amongst ’em”, and her initial foray into the public square with Florinda and Valeria has circumstantial and linguistic connections to Paulina’s First scene in Thomaso, where she and her “sister” Saretta come upon the newly arrived cavaliers. Late in The Rover, Willmore tells Hellena, “Thou hast one virtue I adore-good nature”. The comment seems innocuous at first glance, but as noted earlier, Killigrew’s Angellica also sees herself as good-natured, and the sentence that precedes Willmore’s comment-“Egad, I was never clawed away with broadsides from any female before”-as direct echo of Thomaso’s “I was never struck first by a woman before”-an aside made during the first conversation with Angellica.
Although Hellena inherits Angellica’s good most important attributes suggest a deliberate effort on Behn’s part to subvert Killgrew’s typology of women. On the one hand, Killigrew’s readers learn that Serotine refuses to worry about Thomaso’s involvement with courtesans, because I scorn to fear that he can be such a fool as to give them his heart: and for his body, ’twas always the least of my thoughts …let Thomaso keep his heart and mind fit for my value: let them be
chaste, and for his body I shall never consider that it doth.
On the other, Behn’s audience hears Hellena announce under similar circumstances that “if I should be hanged I cannot but be angry and afraid, when I think that mad fellow should be in love with anybody but me.” Soon afterwards, when she overhears Willmore boasting about his conquest of Angellica, Hellena’s anger clearly indicates that her concern extends not merely to Willmore’s heart and mind, but to his body as well Similarly, Behn must have felt that Serulina’s wealth made Thomaso’s decision to abandon his wandering ways too expedient to be convincing. To avoid this pitfall, she arranges her plot so that Hellena’s fortunes, and even her name, are concealed from Willmore until after he has agreed to marry her.
Of course, Hellena’s best features are her wit and her evident resolve, as she puts it, “to provide myself this Carnival, if there be e’er a handsome proper fellow of my humour above ground, though I ask first. “While the former is primarily Behn’s invention, the later, like her jealousy and her penchant for travelling incognito, seems to be a conscious attempt to subvert the prejudices displayed in Thomaso. One of the more grotesque subplots in the source play involves “an old decayed blind, out of Fashion whore, gay and fine, as Girl of Fifteen, but out-of-fashion in her clothes”. Her name is Hellena, and her goal in the play is to regain her lost youth, for “I love, I love, my Child, and fain would be belov’d again”. Behn’s Hellena, who is fifteen says, on two separate occasions that she wants “to love and be beloved.” While Killigrew’s Hellena introduces herself with a catalogue of her physical ailments-her blindness, her bad teeth, her trembling hands, and her silver hair-Behn’s heroine justifies her interest in the opposite sex like this: Prithee tell me, what dost thou see about me that is unfit for love?
Have I not a world of youth? A hunior gay? A beauty passable ? A vigor desirable? Well shaped? Clean limbed? Sweet breathed? And sense enough to how all these ought to be employed to the best advantage? Yes, I do and will …
In short, Behn’s Hellena is what Killigrew’s Hellena wishes she was. In place of Killigrew’s misogynistic joke, Behn provides a character whose appetite combines with her wit, beauty, and self- assurance to produce that most attractive- and in a certain sense, the most powerful-character in the play.
Hellena alone can redeem Willmore, because she alone can deal with him on his own terms. The gypsy and the rover are linked very early in the play, not only by their nicknames, but by some random comments about the heightened sexual appetite of both characters. Shortly after Willmore’s first appearance, Fredrick notes that there is “no friend to Love like a long voyage to sea”. Blunt’s reply-“Except nature and Serulina’s wealth, her ‘
nunnery, Fred”-instantly reminds the audience of Hellena, whose convent upbringing is cited in the first line of the play. The word “mad” is frequently applied to both Willmore and Hellena, and the epithet like their nicknames, suggest that neither individual will be bound by social conventions. Both are equally adept at verbal fencing perhaps because as Hellena says, “We are both of one humour.” The most important aspect of this temperamental affinity is the activist spirit shared by both characters and manifested in Hellena’s case by her willingness to employ whatever tactics are necessary to hold on to Willmore-a spirit which is notably lacking in all of Killgrew’s female characters with the exception of his Hellena. This spirit also differentiates Behn’s heroines from the passive Florinda and the tragic Angellica, who is active as an avenger rather than a lover.
A few important similarities between Hellena and Angellica cannot escape our attention. If Hellena is a deprived younger sister meant to accept the Church, Angellica is the woman who stands totally unprotected. It is because she is poor in a world composed of buyers. Angellica’s only value or power is her charm and youth. Lack of financial or social support is the fate that both Hellena and Angellica share. Then, both are beautiful, vivacious enough to attract general attention. Thirdly, both are capable of a new kind of love. It is love that recognises the existence, even celebration of female desire. Lastly, both are the focus of Willmore’s interest. The pay poses Willmore as a point of human inclination swayed by two strong contenders for fulfillment in love. But there is also a notable contrast between Hellena and Angellica that sex as a commodity practiced by the latter alone. Hellena may be unethical and sensual but she does not represent, as Angellica does, the cracs nature of acceptance of sex as a commodity that demands the woman in every female. To a large extent, Angellica’s and Moretta’s internalization of the prevailing market ethos have attained the same level in the play, one cannot be separated from the other. Compare the numerous value-free observations of the two, such as Angellica’s “I am resolved that nothing but gold shall charm my heart,” and Moretta’s “This is an age wherein beauty is at higher rates.”
In spite of this, Angellica’s is a subtle portrayal. Her sweep is large enough to encompass not just the marginalized characters in the play (the Bravos, the maids, etc.) but also the helpless women of upper class such as Florinda, Hellena and Valeria. It is because of this that the presence of love in her heart assumes a peculiarly anguished and poignant form. She is the one in the play to think of leaving all for the sake of Willmore’s “large soul” and “love.” a
Q. 8. Attempt a character sketch of Florinda in Aphra Behn’s The Rover.
Ans. Critics have often remarked that in Aphra Behn’s The Rover, ladies act like whores and whores like ladies. On this level, the play presents a dramatic world dominated by the two principal patriarchal definitions of women, but in which the boundary separating one category from the other has become blurred. In the case of both Florinda, (the play’s quintessential “maid of qualty,”) and the prostitute Angellica Bianca, the role reversals arise out of contrasting bids to move from subjection into subjectivity. It is Florinda’s rebel lion against the commodification of forced marriage that destabilizes her position within patriarchy, while Angellica Bianca’s self-construction as Petrarchan mistress charts the attempt of a woman excluded from the martial marketplace to turn her beauty into an alternative form of power.
Rebellion against forced marriage is, of course, an age-old comic theme; but the terms in which Florinda articulates her defiance of paternal authorityher condemnation of the “ill customs” which make a woman the “slave” of her male relations-presents this comic motif as a clash between the absolutist concept of marriage, in which women function as “ objects of exchange and the guarantee of dynastic continuity,” and the liberal concept, which invests them with the autonomous subject’s right to choose. However, the relationship between these two ideas of marriage during the early modern period was not one of simple opposition. The consensus view of marriage as an affective union may have led to general disapproval of aristocratic arranged marriage, but the woman’s allotted role within the companionate ideal modified without seriously challenging patriarchal interests However, the properties which sustain Florinda’s status as an autonomous subject free to choose her own marriage partner are largely those for which her father and brother cherish her: it is her beauty, rank and fortune that make her such a prized asset on the marriage market. Even Florinda’s conviction of a spiritual center that makes her more than a saleable body may smack less of early feminist thought than of class pride, insofar as aristocratic ideology always justified class power by appeals to essential superiority. And when Florinda defends Belvile against Pedro’s suspicions, she introduces a final and crucial component of her value, at once a corporeal property and one surrounded with a powerful spiritual mystique: during the siege of Pamplona, Belvile “threw himself into all dangers” to preserve her honour.
On one level, Florinda’s attack on patriarchal compulsion points to the internal contradictions which work to destabilize ideologies of gender. Florinda is a beautiful and wealthy upper-class virgin, possessed of the cluster of class and gender attributes that make her, in this hierarchical masculine order, the most highly prized of women. At the same time, she degraded to the level of an object, a commodity, however precious, in a coercive structure of exchange: The tension between these exalted and reductive valuations opens a space for rebellion and a bid for self-determination, for Florinda’s pride in her self-worth clearly chafes at the exploitation involved in forced marriage.
At the same time, however, the scene makes it clear that Florinda remains inscribed within male discourse. Because her self-esteem derives entirely from her status as a lady, she is able to measure her human value only by patriarchal standards. This contradiction in her self-conception becomes especially apparent in her attitude towards sexuality, which combines the determination to secure her own amorous choice with a chaste shrinking from the reality of female desire. In the opening scene, before the appearance of her brother Pedro, Florinda does not hesitate to do hiş sexual policing for him, reproaching their sister Hellena’s curiosity about the erotic realm as unseemly wildness in a young woman destined for a nunnery. When it comes to her relationship with Belvile, Florinda avoids acknowledging her own sexual impulses by recoding their passion into a narrative of chivalric courtesy and nobility. In a later scene, she claims that her attachment to Belvile stems not from an unstable physical infatuation but from knowledge of his “merit”. Significantly, Belvile demonstrated that merit in the classic chivalric scenario of the knight’s defense of imperiled virginity: When I was exposed to such dangers as the licensed lust of common soldiers threatened, when rage and conquest flew through the city-then Belvile, this criminal, for my sake, threw himself into all dangers to save my honour. Florinda offers this story as evidence of Belvile’s aristocratic highmindedness; but we may also detect the strong subtext in this miniature chivalric romance, involving the hero’s determination to oust his rivals and claim ex
clusive possession of the object of desire.
For instance, while it would certainly be possible to play the scene in an exploitative manner, offering the audience a titillating blend of knockabout comedy and naked female flesh, the stage action also sets up a constant tension between what Willmore says and what he does, between his conviction that he is involved in a seduction and his steady application of a low level of physical force. Having stumbled upon what he takes to be a sure-fire sexual dalliance, Willmore is clearly in a hurry to get down to business with this “delicate shining wench”, and Florinda’s responses to his advances throughout the scene tell us that he has grabbed hold of her and will not let her go. When she calls him a “filthy beast”, he greets her expression of physical revulsion with an outrageous display of libertine wit, claiming that sex with a “filthy beast” does after all have the distinct advantage of not being “premeditated and designed”, of existing outside of the moral realm altogether. Yet this funny (because supremely unconvincing) argument for mutually guilt-free sex does not entirely obscure the intractable problem in Willmore’s reading of the encounter as a seduction: that his forcefulness actually looks disturbingly like rape insofar as he does not appear to be giving this supposedly willing woman any choice in the matter. a /
And indeed, it is not long before Florinda accuses Willmore of sexual aggression with the cry, “Wicked man, unhand me”. Far from backing off, however, Willmore simply denies the charge by throwing it back in Florinda’s face: Wicked! Egad child, a judge were he young and vigorous, and saw those eyes of thine, would know ’twas they gave the first blow-the first provocation-come, prithee, let’s lose no time, I say-this is a fine convenient place.
When the next scene makes it clear that this is also an attempted rape according to patriarchal standards, the question of the man’s belief again arises, for Willmore claims extenuating circumstances: “By this light, I took her for an errant harlot”. Belvile himself appears at the start of the scene to view rape as the violation of any woman’s right to bodily integrity: “If it had not been Florinda, must you be a beast?”. But later in the scene, when he waxes lyrical on the subject of Florinda’s “essence,” it seems clear that what Willmore has threatened is a patriarchal prize: 17
“tell me, sot, hadst thou so much sense and light about her face and person, to strike an awful reverence into thy soul?” Like the naïve royalist he is, Belvile wants essence to shine through appearances; but because this is an assumption the play continually undercuts-none of the male characters, Belvile included, can invariably tell ladies from whores-Willmore’s self-justification takes on considerable force; for in a world where categorical distinctions are blurred, how can a man know which women are off-limits and which are available for his “diversion”
Aphra Behn’s play The Rover opens with Florinda and Hellena, the daughters of a noble Spanish family, engaged in conversation in a chamber. Hellena, destined to become a nun, asks her sister about love; she is particularly curious about her sister’s latest love interest. Florinda brushes off her sister’s curiosity, claiming that she cannot possibly understand love, as she has never been a lover. Hellena proceeds to talk about an English colonel named Belvile, whom their brother brought to visit Florinda. Mention of Belvile makes Florinda blush, and Hellena continues to list possible suitors who might be the reason behind Florinda’s apparently love-struck state. When Hellena mentions Don Vincentio, a rich old man whom the girls’ father wants Florinda to marry, Florinda makes clear that she hates Vincentio and has no intention of marrying him. Hellena continues to press her sister for answers, insisting that it is Belvile for whom she pines. Florinda reminds her sister that, as a maid destined to become a nun, she should not be so curious about her sister’s love life. In response, Hellena reveals that she too has no intention of carrying out the designs that her father has made for her. She is asking her sister about love and Belvile because she hopes that he “has some mad companion that will spoil [her] devotion.” Hellena subsequently makes known her plans to attend the upcoming citywide Carnival. Hellena continues to ask her sister about Belvile, and Florinda eventually reveals that she knew the English colonel before he arrived in Naples, and that she is in love
The sisters’ brother Don Pedro enters the chamber, along with his servant Stephano, and the girls’ governess, Calls. Pedro asks Florinda when she last saw Don Vincentio, her lover; she replies that she does not know, for she cares not. Don Pedro reminds his sister that their father commands that she love Vincentio for his vast fortune, and because Vincentio has a passion for her. As he puts on his masquerade outfit for the carnival, Florinda tells her brother that she hates Vincentio, and that she has confidence in her brother’s ability to divert their father’s will to have her marry such a man: A passion for nie? ”Tis more than eʼver I saw, or he had desire should be known. I hate Vincentio, sir, and I would not have a so dear to me as my brother follow the ill customis of our country and make a slave of his sister. And, sir, my father’s will I’m sure you may divert.
She proceeds to tell her brother that she values the colonel Belvile for having protected her when she was in danger during a conquest in Pamplona. Pedro respects his sister’s admiration for the colonel, but implores her to consider the wealth of Vincentio. Florinda maintains that her youth and beauty a should not be wasted on such an old man that she has no feelings for, regardless of his fortune. As Pedro continues to argue that fortune must be considered before heroic acts, Hellena joins the conversation, arguing against Florinda’s marrying Vincentio for his money. Pedro discredits Hellena’s opinion as an uninformed nun who is, “not designed for the conversation of lovers.” Hellena proceeds to voice her opinion regards such an arranged marriage, deeming her sister’s predicament even worse than her own. Hellena suggest that the son of the Viceroy, Don Antonio, would be a better fit for Florinda. Tired of her outspoken insolence, Don Pedro instructs Callis to lock Hellena up for the duration of the Carnival that is about to take place in the city.
After commanding Callis to lock up Hellena, Don Pedro tells Florinda that, if he had it his way, she would marry Don Antonio rather than Don Vincentio. Like his sisters, he too hates Vincentio. Florinda agrees to go along with her brother’s plan. When Pedro and Stephano leave, however, Florinda reveals that, although she cannot logically argue that marrying Antonio would be unfavourable, she does not want to be with him.
Hellena pleads with Callis to refrain from locking her up. Initially resistant to Hellena’s pleas, Callis is eventually convinced to let both of the girls attend the Carnival, if they wear disguises and allow her to supervise them. Hellena wants to enjoy her freedom, she claims, before becoming a devout nun for the rest of her life. Stephano enters the chamber again to let Florinda know that her outfit for the Carnival is ready, and that her cousin Valeria is waiting to attend the Carnival with her. In an aside, Florinda determines to write a note to Belvile and pass it to him if she runs into him at the carnival. The girls get dressed as gypsies before heading to the carnival.
At the Carnival, Florinda, in the habits of a gypsy approaches Belvile and pretends to read his palm. Belvile is weary of the practice and makes an effort to get away from Florinda, who grabs him and refuses to let him leave until he confesses whether he truly loves Florinda. At the mention of her name, Belvile is suddenly interested; Florinda tells him to wait for her at the garden gate later that night. Belvile vows to obey just as Don Pedro enters with several other masked Carnival attendees. Florinda hands Belvile a letter and then leaves. Frederick warns Belvile that the letter may be a trick designed by Florinda’s brother, Pedro, to destroy him. But Belvile tells Frederick not to “disturb [his) happiness with doubts,” and proceeds to open the letter. After examining Florinda’s letter, which again instructs Belvile to meet her in the garden at ten o’clock that night, Belvile recruits his friends to help him rescue his love from the “threatened violence” of her brother (who is planning to have her married to his friend, Don Antonio).
It is nighttime, and Florinda has managed to escape the watchful eyes of Callis and her brother, Pedro. She uses the key to unlock the garden door and waits therein for Belvile with a box of jewels. A drunken Willmore suddenly arrives, and tries to get Florinda to sleep with him. He grabs her, and she strongly objects, threatening to cry rape. He offers her some money, and again she refuses, in disgust. Belvile and Frederick arrive and just as Florinda is forced to scream out murder to protect herself against Willmore. Belvile and Frederick run to her defense, and Willmore draws on his friends before he recognizes them. Florinda instructs Belvile to hide by her chamber window later so that she can give him further instruction. Pedro’s party arrives in response to Florinda’s cry for help and proceeds to fight the intruders , while Stephano checks on Florinda. Stephano reports back to Pedro that Florinda is safe and asleep in her chamber; the disturbance is chalked up to wild masquerading.
In an attempt to hide from her brother who is pursuing her, Florinda ventures through an open door. Florinda, running from one controlling and insensitive man, slips into the hands of another when she enters Blunt’s chamber. Interestingly, she believes that she is escaping to better place when she enters Blunt’s lair; she reasons that venturing through the open door will be an improvement to her current state “since nothing can be worse than to fall into [her brother’s] hands.” Unfortunately, she does fall into worse hands.
Florinda has entered without knowing into Blunt’s chamber, where she discovers him sitting on a couch in his shirt and drawers, reading. Blunt speaks aloud of his plans to take revenge on the female sex for what the strumpet Lucetta has done to him. Florinda tells Blunt that she is seeking shelter and safety, and will be ruined if he does not grant it to her. Blunt pulls her in rudely, determined to take his revenge on her; he tells her that he plans to beat her and kiss her all over. Frederick enters, and Blunt invites him to join him as he beats and rapes Florinda. Both men are set to attack her, when Florinda pleads with them not to hurt her for Belvile’s sake. She recognizes Frederick as a friend of Belvile’s, and tells him that she is very dear to the English colonel. She presents the men with a diamond ring and Frederick, worried that she might actually be a woman of value, suggests that they hold of raping her until they know for sure, after speaking with Belvile. A servant enters to announce the arrival of Belyile and a Spaniard of quality (Don Pedro); Frederick leaves with Florinda, and Blunt locks his door to prevent the entrance of Belvile and company.
Belvile and company try to knock down the door to Blunt’s chamber; after repeated attempts, they are successful. Belvile and Willmore scorn Blunt for allowing himself to be duped by Lucetta. Pedro tells Blunt that he is ashamed on behalf of his country for the mistreatment. Blunt tells of his plans to seek revenge on an innocent Spanish woman (i.e. Florinda); all of the men want to see her. Belvile believes that she might be Florinda when he sees the ring that was given to Blunt by her. Don Pedro chases a disguised Florinda around the chamber until Valeria arrives, and tells Pedro that Florinda has fled and that he might be able to catch her if he visits Callis immediately. This lie prompts Pedro to leave, and Florinda hugs Valeria to thank her for diverting him. Florinda reveals herself and forgives all of the men; she makes haste with Belvile to get married at the church. Frederick and Valeria get together. Don Pedro enters and Willmore tells him that Belvile and Florinda have just been married, just as Belvile enters the room. To everybody’s surprise, Pedro gives Belvile his blessings, and the brothers-in-law leave together.
Q. 9. Attempt a character sketch of Angelica Bianca in Aphra Behn’s.
Ans. Angellica Bianca is a famous courtesan who at the time of play’s (The Rover’s) events has just lost her benefactor, Don Pedro’s wealthy uncle, who had been paying her monthly expenses of 1,000 crowns. Now she is advertising for a new lover, so she has placed three portraits of herself on the outside of her palatial home, along with the price of 1,000 crowns. Angellica is accustomed to a life of luxury, but she has paid for it by sacrificing her honour and virginity for the riches she extracts from men who fall prey to her seductive beauty. For Angellica, being a courtesan is a matter of survival and independence; to fall in love would ruin her, for then she would be at the mercy of the men she uses. Unfortunately, she falls hopelessly in love with one of worst rakes, a British valier, Captain Willmore, who wants only physical satisfaction and not a committed love relationship. After being “undone” by Willmore, Don Antonio graciously offers to be her lifelong companion, thus removing her from the need to market her body.
One of Behn’s most interesting reversals is Angellica Bianca’s assumption of the role of chaste redeemer. In A Letter of Genteel and Moral Advice to a Young Lady (1740), Wetenhall Wilkes presents the middle-class view of the aristocracy as marked by self-indulgence and excess, imaged by the licentious rake, “who must be subjected to a feminized, virtuous, heroic passion by female chastity.” By permitting Angellica to signify herself as no man would signify her-that is, as redemptive female-Behn makes her, as Janet Todd suggests, symbol for the female writer in general and for Aphra Behn, whose initials also were A.B., in particular. Both Angellica Bianca and Aphra Behn had their “signs” attacked.
Angellica Bianca seems to have internalized the commonly held view that violence was an acceptable means of seduction. Accompanying herself with a lute, she sings a song that functions as a “sign” It tells the story of Damon, a shepherd, who had been languishing in a “sort desire” for Celia. He is lying in the shade weaving a flower for her hair when she suddenly appears with her flock. Looking at her, he sees “guilty smiles and blushes” and the bashful youth all transport grew how
And with kind he taught the virgin
To yield what all his sighs never do.
This sign is a song, doubtless sung to arouse potential customers, supports the male-constructed narrative, or myth, of the naturalness of rape. The myth, “that rape is a crime of passion touched off by female beauty.” Susan Brownmiller contends, “is given great credence, and women are influenced to believe that to be raped is a testament of beauty.” The myth also supports the notion that such force is a kindness to women, for it gives them pleasure they would otherwise be denied.
Angellica accepts what Brownmiller calls the male-constructed narrative of rape. She seeks to have Willmore re-create the “kind force” of her musical sing. Her ‘virgin heart’ must be taken by force. While Angellica seems to desire that Willmore take her body as violently and as forcefully as he has attacked her sign by it down, this scene with Willmore turns the rape narrative, if not topsy-turvy, at least ninety degrees. Angellica is the aggressor, but she must, in order to fit her concept of herself as a modest virgin, be the victim of male violence. It is illuminating to compare Angellica’s inversion of the rape narrative with Hellena’s earlier displacement of the male/female binary in her saint-prayer speech. While Hellena gives the redemptive role to the masculine term, Angellica reserves it for the feminine. While for Angellica, the chaste, redeeming female must be taken by force, Hellena gives the aggressive role to feminine term. Her planned assault, however, is verbal. In both cases Behn employs carnivalesque displacement. For although, as Todd acknowledges, Angellica Bianca’s construction seems sentimental and traditional. She is, in fact, radically reconstructing the meaning of prostitute and virgin. As a prostitute, Angellica is condiscourse as carnal and, therefore, fallen or low.
structed in phallic A few important similarities between Hellena and ellica cannot escape our attention. If Hellena is a deprived younger sister meant to accept the Church, Angellica is the woman who stands totally unprotected. It is because she is poor in a world composed of buyers. Angellica’s only value or power is her charm and youth. Lack of financial or social support is the fate that both Hellena and Angellica share. Then, both are beautiful, vivacious enough to attract general attention. Thirdly, both are capable of a new kind of love. It is love that recognises the existence, even celebration of female desire. Lastly, both are the focus of Willmore’s interest. The play poses Willmore as a point of human inclination swayed by two strong contenders for fulfillment in love. But there is also a notable contrast between Hellena and Angellica that sex as a commodity practiced by the latter alone. Hellena may be unethical and sensual but she does not represent, as Angellica does, the crass nature of acceptance of sex as a commodity that demands the woman in every female. To a large extent, Angellica’s and Moretta’s internalization of the prevailing market ethos have attained the same level in the play, one cannot be separated from the other. Compare the numerous value-free observations of the two, such as Angellica’s “I am resolved that nothing but gold shall charm my heart,” and Moretta’s “This is an age wherein beauty is a higher rates.”
Harbage has summarized Killgrew’s attitude towards the opposite sex by asserting that “for him there were two kinds of women: angelic women, and courtesans, with the latter class subdivided into good courtesans and bad courtesans.” His Angellica is clearly a good courtesan: as she tells Thomaso, “I am vain enough to believe, though I am not a good woman, I am not an ill Mistriss.” Thomaso’s brutal reply-“Faith, “tis a very ill woman (if she be handsome) that will not make a good whore” – is beside the point here, since in comparison to Lucetta, Serrate and Kecka (Killigrew’s bad courtesans), Angellica is everything she claims to be. Bad courtesans are characterized by their vicious actions and vengeful dispositions, while good courtesans know their proper role and accept it gracefully. Thus, Angellica tells Thomaso she would not consider asking him to marry her, and although she participates in a small way in the conspiracy against Killigrew’s hero, both she and the author are at pains to testify that her role was very limited. More to the point perhaps is the creed to Paulina, another good courtesan in Thomaso, who claims, somewhat ungrammatically, never to have broken the Laws prescrib’d to our sex, faithful, kind, constant, and obedient to our Lovers, concern’d only in
their good, never betraying or abandoning their trust.
The self-obliterating code of the good courtesan enables Killigrew to treat his hero’s seduction of Angellica as a type of liberation. The gist of Thomaso’s argument is that if Angellica sleeps with him and does not demand payment, she will free herself at least momentarily from the sin of her condition: As Angellica puts it, she was “often a Mistriss, never a Lover till now.
Behn leaves out Angellica’s autobiography and her “good nature”. Instead, she emphasizes the courtesan’s inability to escape the mercenary assumptions that control her life. Both Thomaso and Willmore begin their seduction scene by railing against prostitution in general, but the two Angellicas differ in their response to the challenge. Killigrew’s Angellica acknowledges the justice of Thomaso’s criticism, but she also tells him that “your truths are a knowledge I have learned too late … (once a whore and ever) is the world adage.” This plays directly into Thomaso’s hands: he proves her wrong by not paying her, an omission which is construed as a virtue on the grounds that he is treating her as something other than a whore.
When Behn’s Angellica gives in to Willmore, she also claims that she “never loved before, though oft a mistress.” Unfortunately, she cannot abandon the mercenary attitude displayed by her attendant. She wants Willmore to “credit” her sincerity, and she ultimately demands payment in return-not at the advertised rate of one thousand crowns, but rather in the more ethereal currency of “thy love for mine.” And although Willmore urges her to begin th’ account this happy minute,” his inability to pay in a material sense is matched by his inability to pay the price she asks. Behn drives this point home in the following scene where Moretta and Angellica react angrily to their first glimpse of Willmore and Hellena. When her bawd asks, “What could you less expect from such a swaggerer?” Angellica responds with “Expect? As much as I paid him: a heart entire.” Whether Willmore has deliberately misled Angellica on this subject is open to question. His use of commercial imagery suggests that he has, but he frequently seems too impetuous to carry out anything so calculating. In any case, the sorrow and anger displayed by Angellica at the end of the play is clearly his responsibility, and Behn would not have included such a scene in her comedy unless she had wished to emphasise that point.
The heroine of Thomaso may be “the star, bright Serulina, whose Friendship thus has fixt the Wanderer,” and Killigrew’s Angellica may apologize for her half-hearted attempt to assist the conspiracy against Thomaso, but Behn’s rover remains unimpressed by Florinda’s fidelity, and Behn’s Angellica is much less willing than her predecessor to forgive his transgressions. Willmore clearly needs redeeming, but neither Angellica nor Florinda is capable of dealing with the problems raised by his actions. He is finally corralled by Hellena, a character for whom there is no direct source in the earlier work.
Much of Hellena’s background and even a few of her lines are culled from the speeches of the good courtesans in Thomaso-that is, from Angellica and
Paulina. The detail about her nunnery upbringing ties her to Paulina, who likewise was “bred sometimes amongst ’em,” and her initial foray into the public square with Florinda and Valeria has circumstantial and linguistic connections to Paulina’s First scene in Thomaso, where she and her “sister” Saretta come upon the newly arrived cavaliers. Late in The Rover, Willmore tells Hellena, “Thou hast one virtue I adore-good nature”. The comment seems innocuous at first glance, but as I noted earlier, Killigrew’s Angellica also sees herself as good-natured, and the sentence that precedes Willmore’s comment-“Egad, I was never clawed away with broadsides from any female before”-as direct echo of Thomaso’s “I was never struck first by a woman before” -an aside made during the first conversation with Angellica.
Q. 10. Attempt a character sketch of Willmore in Aphra Behn’s The Rover.
Ans. The Rover, published and first produced in 1677, was Aphra Behn’s most successful play. The original full title, Tlie Rover; or, The Banished Cavalier, indicates that the play was a tribute to the formerly exiled cavalier and newly reinstated king, Charles II. The rover of the title is Willmore, an exiled English sea captain on shore leave to enjoy the carnival, or Hellena, a young woman hoping to experience life and love before being committed to a convent by her brother (Don Pedro). These two rovers-Willmore and Hellena- fall in love amid witty debates and sexual maneuvering. Willmore has many parallels to Charles II, whose exploits during his twenty-year banishment from England were well known. Charles II enjoyed the play so much that he commissioned a private viewing of it.
In morals and wit Willmore was based on Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, Aphra Behn’s friend and patron. The protagonist’s name “Willmore” itself is a play on the word “Wilmot”, We can say of Willmore what John Dennis said of Diriment, the hero of The Man of the Mode or Sir Fopling Flutter (1676) by George Etherege, that he “had in him several of the qualities of Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, as his Wit, his amorous Temper, the Charms that he had for the fair Sex, his falsehood, and his Inconstancy.” Rochester was considered the wittiest of his day. Willmore has no misgivings about declaring his healthy sexual appetite. He plays with the meaning of bush (the rose plant and female genitals) when he wants to strike a bargain with the women dressed as courtesans parading on the streets during the carnival, who indicate that they are for hire on a monthly basis by pinning notices on their breasts carrying the message, “Roses for every month” and baskets of flowers in their hands.
Florinda, Hellena and Valeria enter, dressed as gypsies. Willmore is straightaway attracted towards Hellena, and her wit is as charming as that of Willmore. He frankly refers to her the months of abstinence he has suffered on board ship: I am come from the sea, child, and Venus not being propitious to me in her elenient, I have a world of love in store, Would you
would be good-natured and take some on’t off my hands?
Earlier Frederick had declared, “No friend to love like a long voyage at sea” seeing Willmore’s exasperated pursuit for a woman. Willmore’s exasperated pursuit for a woman. Willmore puts it more wittily, bemoaning the fact that Venus Aphrodite, the goddess of love, born of the foam of the sea, affords no opportunities for love on voyages at sea. Willmore advances many arguments in favour of free sex.
In order to justify his rakishness, Willmore does not spare even religion. When Willmore is told that Hellena is to become a nun, he quotes the example of Jephtha’s daughter whose sacrifice was not accepted because she was a virgin. He alludes to the biblical story to convince Hellena that, “Tis more meritorious to leave the world when thou hast tasted the pleasure on’t. Then it will be a virtue to thee, which now will be pure ignorance.” Hellena is concerned with the main theme of the play, sexually, and asks Willmore, “Is there no difference between leave to love me and leave to lie with me?” And Willmore answers that “They were made to go together.”
Willmore is “The Rover,” whose only virtue is inconstancy. He proudly gives out to Hellena that his name is “Robert the Constant” which is highly ironical in view of his constant roving habit. As he tells Angellica Bianca that he wants to be a free bird flying from branch to branch to oblige birds that would make love to him. He would think of returning to her roost as a tribute to her love for him after finishing his rounds with other birds. He denounces her accusation of inconstancy of him by saying that no man can be expected to be constant in making love to women. He is sorry that the old colonel has spoiled her too much by his flattery to compensate for his impotency. But he will not flatter her for he has given his best to her as she has done to him. When she asks him to justify why she should not kill him, he tells her that he cannot say much about it except that she would be robbing of his good services to women if she does so.
Willmore lives for the moment and talks straight from the heart. His fascinating frankness charms not only Hellena, but the seasoned and highly rated courtesan, Angellica Bianca. His charm is irresistible in spite of his deviant, wayward behaviour. He easily slips out of embarrassing situation with the help of his facile wit. He is a typical Restoration rake because he is surprisingly honest in his utterances, when he fells Hellena masquerading as a gipsy. He tells her that he has come from the sea and he is love-starved as Venus the goddess of love does not provide enough scope for love on board the ships during long voyages on the sea. He has a heavy load of love in store and he wants Hellena to help him unload some of it off his hands. He finds virtue a disease in women he willfully flouts sexual mores as he treads the path of fun and pleasure as someone born to pursue joy for its own sake. He is equally attracted to all women, be it the courtesan Angellica, the prattling “sweet gipsy” Hellena or the virtuous and upright Florinda. He is a poor English cavalier supporting Prince Charles in exile and there is a “certain forward impudence” about him. He is aggressive and outgoing as well as strong and manly. Willmore is unable to focus on one relationship at a time, for he is a genuine pleasureseeker, an excited participant in a carnival. a
Willmore termed ‘the rover’ in the text is a young man whose only virtue is inconstancy-a lawlessness in alliances. He talks straight from the heart and lives for the moment. There is a fascinating side to his fickleness which captivates the hearts many women in the play. Women find his charm irresistible in spite of his deviant, disloyal behaviour. When caught in the web of contradictory acts, he can easily slip out of it through his flippant speech.
Willmore does not have a tangible history or social background. He is an Englishman merely by birth. His manners betray this fact while he himself is largely unconscious about it. A reference to his “certain forward impudence” by Hellena is not supposed to anger the English audience but to excite pleasure by reminding them that they are aggressive and outgoing in their ways. Willmore is a strong and manly Englishman who has mostly been on the sea. This is borne out clearly by the play as a whole-Willmore cannot focus upon one relationship or person for a long time. For him, love, constancy, loyalty, etc. come second to the pleasure of the moment. However, his strength lies in being a genuine pleasure seeker, an excited participant in a carnival.
Willmore acts not only as the rover but as signifier for the play’s phallic logic. His name metaphorizes the trajectory of desire as he roves from bed to bed” willing more,” making all satisfactions temporary and unsatisfying. Desire’s subject, Willmore never disguises himself (he comes on stage holding his mask); until enriched by the courtesan Angellica Bianca, he remains in “buff” or leather military coat. In another sense, though, Willmore is already in disguise, or rather the entity “Willmore” covers a range of linguistic and social signifiers.
Q. 11. Attempt a character sketch of colonel Belvile in Aphra Behn’s The Rover.
Ans. Belvile is an honourable and steadfast English colonel who has fallen in love with a beautiful young Spanish woman belonging to a noble family in Naples when he protects her from an attack of “marauding soldiers” during the siege of Pamplona. Belvile is one of the many exiled Englishman travelling around Europe during the Interregnum, the period after the beheading of Charles I and before the reinstatement of his son, Charles II. Unlike his English fellows, Belvile is not interested in any of the many courtesans in Naples but pines away for his true love. He hopes to find her in Naples and marry her. However, it is Belvile’s bad luck to get himself into countless situations that make it difficult for him to meet Florinda and elope with her as they had planned.
During the Carnival at Naples, Belvile is there one of the streets with his friends, Blunt and Frederick. He is sad and melancholy as he is looking for Florinda, whose honour and life he had saved at Pamplona and with whom is desperately in love. He is not interested in any other woman like his other English companions, Willmore, Frederick and Blunt. He tells them: “I’ve int’rest enough in that lonely Virgin’s heart to make me proud and vain, werę it not abated by the severity of a brother, who, perceiving happiness-“has ordered her not to step out of the house during the Carnival. Fredrick mocks at his romantic interest in one particular woman: “I dare swear I had a hundred as young, kind and handsome as this Florinda, and dogs eat me if they were not as troublesome to me i’th’ morning as they were unwelcome o’er night.”
Florinda, Hellena and Valeria enter dressed as gipsies, as does a common prostitute, Lucetta accompanied by her pimps. Hellena directs Florinda to her lover Belvile, ‘while she pretends to read the fortune of the “proper handsome fellow,” Willmore. Florinda spots Belvile in the crowd, but before the lovers can say anything to each other, Don Pedro, the brother of Florinda and Hellena enters. Florinda slips a letter to Belvile asking him to meet her at night her garden gate. Belvile is overjoyed. He seeks the assistance of Willmore and Frederick in his assignation with Florinda.
Florinda, Valeria and Hellena enter in different dresses than before with their governess Callis. Florinda wonders why her brother has become so peevish and ill-tempered and if he has found out their secret outing to the Carnival that morning, masquerading as gipsies. Florinda manages to locate Belvile near the house of Angellica Bianca, the famous courtesan who has settled down at Naples. As Florinda is in masquerade, Belvile is not able to recognise her. He is sullen and morose. Valeria intercedes on behalf of Florinda and she is rebuffed by Fredrick. Florinda gives Belvile a ring as a token of her love and devotion, telling him that she is no ordinary mistress but Belvile refuses to accept it as he is already in love with another beautiful woman. Florinda manages to give the ring to him before she leaves. Belvile now looks at the ring with Florinda’s picture on it. He curses himself for not recognizing her while she was just talking to him. He has lost a blessed opportunity, for which he has no one but his evil star to blame. On seeing the picture of Florinda on the ring, Willmore goes into raptures over Florinda’s beauty.
Florinda is waiting for Belvile in her garden. She has got rid of Callis and her brother is fast asleep. She opens the garden door so that Belvile does not need to knock at it when he comes. She is carrying a box of jewels with her, which she hides under a jasmine tree, when she hears a noise outside. It is drunken Willmore who comes to the assistance of his friend Belvile. He looks at Florinda and mistakes her for a common wench and attempts to molest her in spite of her protests. As he is struggling with her, Belvile enters with Fredrick. Belvile is shocked at the rudeness of Willmore and he draws his sword to fight Willmore, but Frederick stops them. Pedro is woken up by the noise in his garden. He wants to assure himself if Florinda is safe. His servant Stephano assures him that she is sleeping peacefully in her bedchamber. Pedro curses the masqueraders for making a nuisance of themselves at night and retires.
Florinda appears in a mask at the Mall with Callis and Stephano. She is worried as Belvile did not come under her window at night to see her. She also does not know who her brother is fighting with that morning. Stephano also does not know because both of them were in masquerade the previous night. She thinks that it must be Don Antonio engaged in a duel with her lover, Belvile over her.
Don Pedro enters in masquerade to fight Don Antonio over Angellica Bianca. While a mistaken Florinda runs between the two imploring them not to fight. Pedro recognises his sister and Belvile is hurt to discover that Florinda is pleading for his rival. As Belvile routs and disarms Pedro, Florinda requests him not to hurt her brother in the name of the woman he loves. Belvile puts down his sowed and Pedro compliments Antonio (Belvile in Antonio’s dress with a mask over his face) for proving his love for Florinda. As Pedro pulls off his mask for a while, Belvile recognises him thanks Pedro. The latter asks Belvile to get married to Florinda at once for if their father who is away at Rome arrives back home that night, may stop their marriage. Pedro asks Belvile to take Florinda to St. Peter’s church where they will be married.
Florinda who is unaware that the person in the guise of Don Antonio is none other than her lover Belvile, resists Belvile’s advances. She swears to Belvile that no priest will force her marry Antonio even though she may be dragged to the church. Belvile pleads with her not to lose such a golden opportunity that has come their way. In order convince Florinda he pulls off his mask to reveal to her who he is:
See, ’tis your Belvile, not Antonio,
Whom your mistaken scorn and anger ruins.
Florinda is delighted at this and she is sorry that she could not recognise his familiar voice.
Just then Willmore, dressed in elegant clothes, enters with Frederick. As he runs to embrace Belvile, Belvile’s mask falls and his true identity is revealed to Don Pedro as well. Pedro then takes away Florinda from Belvile, who claims her by virtue of his conquest. Coming to his friend’s rescue, Willmore draws his sword on Pedro but Belvile intervenes and tells him not to hurt the man whom Florinda holds dear. Pedro accuses of Florinda of plotting this duel and takes her away. Belvile walks up and down in rage, blaming Willmore for the mess he has caused.
Quite differently dressed than before, Florinda and Valeria are glad that they have from their house where their brother had confined them. Valeria recounts how she has done it by tripping their governess Callis and by locking her in the wardrobe. Valeria who has visited Belvile at his lodgings, informs Florinda how desperate he is and both of them wish that he were there soon.
Don Pedro is in serious discussion with Belvile when they, accompanied by Willmore. As Valeria walks by and looks at him the rake is attracted towards her. He follows her, at which Belvile comments: “’tis a mad fellow for a wench.” Hellena finds Willmore chasing her cousin Valeria, who is in disguise. She informs her servant to follow them both and report back to her where they go.
Florinda has been trying to escape her brother, who seems to be in hot
pursuit for her. She enters a house close by and Valeria joins her there. It happens to be Belvile’s lodging, which Florinda is not aware of. Blunt is there inside. He is fretting and fuming at his misfortune of having been duped and robbed by Lucetta with the help of her pimps. Still in his shirt and drawers, he puts on a belt and ties a sword round his waist, looking like a folk dancer, all the while muttering curses on Lucetta. He resolves to avenge the humiliation on any woman that he sees.
As soon as he sees Florinda enter the room, he visualizes a chance of avenging his insult at the hands of Lucetta. He threatens Florinda with molestation, rape and beating, warning her not to resist his advances. A shocked Florinda begs him not to be so cruel and heartless. He replies that he will molest as it pleases him and she should lie with him too. Not that he cares for enjoyment but wants to make her see that he has taken wanton malice to her. He will take his revenge on one whore for the sins of another. After using her, he will strip her stark naked and hang her out at his window by her heels, with a paper of scurvy verses fastened to her breast in praise of damnable woman.
Belvile and his friends shout from outside, demanding Blunt. to open the door. When he does not answer, they are prepared to break in. Blunt first tells them that he is praying, but when they insist on entering, he is transaction “an important business” with a woman inside the room. Willinore becomes excited at the presence of “a wench” inside the room. He feels that they must all partake and breaks open the door. When they enter they all laugh at Blunt looking foolish and embrassed in his shirt and drawers with a sword tucked to his belt around his waist. Belvile also joins the fun. Don Pedro is ashamed of his nation where one of its citizens has brought Blunt to this pass. Don Pedro then says that he would have a look at the woman and say if she is a woman of quality or one that is fit for their diversion.
Blunt tells them that he has, however, another woman in his possession to avenge his humiliation at the hands of Lucetta. He shows the ring that Florinda has given him and Belvile at once recognises it, “Ha! The ring I gave Florinda when we exchanged our vows. Willmore is, however, eager to see “the wench” that Blunt and Frederick have confined in the lodgings. He is even prepared to fight a duel for being the first to have her. Then they all decide that the man with the longest sword carry her. Since Don Pedro, being a Spaniard, has the longest sword and Willmore concedes the woman to him.
Florinda runs in and she is in a mask. Don Pedro grabs her and asks her not to be fussy and tries to run away from him as she has fallen to his lot. A scared Florinda does not want to be found out by her brother as the men fight over her. Valeria enters and she is surprised to find Don Pedro there. This compounds Florida’s fears. But Valeria makes a clever move and informs Pedro that his sister Florinda has run away in the guise of her page and Callis is waiting for him. Pedro is famous and he leaves in a huff to find Florinda as she has thwarted all his plans.
Now that Pedro is gone, Valeria urges Florinda and Belvile to get married quickly. Belvile asks Florinda to pardon Willmore and his friends which she does magnanimously. Belvile orders his servant to bring a priest quickly so that they can be married as soon as possible. Florinda asks Frederick to get married to Valeria, which he agrees to. Blunt’s tailor comes with his new dress which he does not like as makes him look like a Spaniard. Don Pedro learns that Antonio has no interest in Florinda as he is been to settle with Angellica. Don Pedro enters and Willmore tells him that Belvile and Florinda have just been married, just as Belvile enters the room. To everybody’s surprise, Pedro gives Belvile his blessings, and the brothers-in-law leave together.
Q. 12. Bring out the significance of the character and Blunt in Aphra Behn’s The Rover.
Ans. Ned Blunt is a small time rogue and country bumpkin rolled into one. This makes him a rotter and an object of constant ridicule in the play, The Rover, Ned Blunt is introduced by Belvile to his friend Willmore thus: “Meet our new friend, sir. He is shy, a new traveller, but is honest and strong-he is one of us.” Later on when Willmore asks him about Blunt ‘what humour is he of’, Belvile tells him that Blunt is like an elder brother of an English noble family. He was educated in a nursery and was looked after by a maid till he was fifteen. He slept with his grandmother till he grew into manhood. He knows no better pleasure than riding to the next carnival or going up to London when the parliament meets, wearing colourful clothes, or making love to his mother’s laundry maid. He gets drunk at a hunting tournament, and ten to one then gives some proof of sexual prowess to someone.
At the opening of the play, we find Blunt making fun of Belvile for being melancholy. Frederick asks him if he has fallen in love with someone in Naples. Blunt asks him if he is morose for the lack of a woman to satisfy his sexual desires and revive his spirits. Belvile tells them that he is languishing for the love of the Spanish virgin whom he has saved at Pamplona. Blunt ridicules Belvile that he has been thoroughly spoiled by the divine rays of the eyes of the Spanish virgin. He says to Fred, ‘what the devil are made of that we cannot be thus concerned for a wench?”
The carnival sport begins. Several men in masquerade enter. Some of them playing on music with others following them dancing. Women are dressed up like courtesans with papers pinned on their breasts and baskets of flowers in their hands. Blunt reads “Roses for every month” written on the papers pinned on the women’s breasts. He asks Belvile what the strange message conveys. Belvile tells Blunt that they are courtesans in Naples, who are hired by men on a monthly basis.
One of the courtesans by name Lucetta notices Blunt and finds him to be a soft target. She plans to hook him up. She often passes by Blunt and gazes him. He too struts and cocks, and walks gazes on her. Blunt is happy that ‘she is taken’ by him for ‘I have beauties which my false glass at home did not discover. Blunt follows Lucetta and she impresses him with her sweet talk and abundant admiration for him. Blunt becomes excited and returns to his friends saying that he has never had such an opportunity of having the company of such beautiful lady. He was a fool to stay in boring England for such a long time. He regrets now that he has made fun of colonel Belvile when he has signed for his mistress. Well, he is determined to sell all his property in Essex and settle down in Naples. He further adds to his friends that she loaded him with kisses and expressed her desire to meet him again. Blunt tells his friends that he does not know the name of the lady but that does not at all matter. He has not given her any money but instead she presented him with a bracelet for ‘the toy diamond’ he used to wear. She expects him again that night. He feels that her kisses have still left their taste on his lips and kisses Frederick to prove his claim.
When Frederick and Belvile Warn Blunt to be wary of cunning city whores, Blunt tells them that they are all fools. The lady has taken in for him because he possesses features that are beyond their intelligence and qualities. One cannot bypass the shape and size of this woman though he has a large waist, his other attractions and qualities are too many to be listed for their benefit. Willmore believes that Blunt has met a noble lady that has been so loving to him. Belvile asks Willmore banteringly if he sees anything about Blunt that should tempt a noble lady to him among all other men and throw away her youth and beauty on him. No, no, it cannot be Angellica for her price is too high for someone like Blunt.
a Blunt is surprised to note that ‘A thousand crowns a month’ rate courtesan Angellica is quite a lot of money. Blunt’s shock at the spectacle at the sale of a woman for such a lot of money is tempered by the comic query “Does she take or give so much by the month?” He asks her henchmen if she does not operate on credit. They tell him that it is a trade that does not operate on credit. He is surprised to find that two Spanish noblemen, Don Pedro and Don Antonio fighting over their claim to that beautiful woman, Angellica Bianca. Lucetta’s man Sancho locates Blunt and informs him that his lady is eagerly awaiting the arrival of Blunt. Blunt accompanies Sancho to Lucetta’s presence.
1 Blunt has been duped by Lucetta, and is now emerging in his shirt and drawer on the road from a ‘common shore,” dirty and in disbelief at having been cheated. He laments his poor fortune, and chastises himself for being so nave and imperceptive: “Oh, I am a cursed puppy! ’tis plain, fool was writ upon my forehead! She perceived it; saw the Essex calf there.” He is afraid of facing his friends for he is sure that their mockery and fun at his expense would rub salt against his wounded heart. So he plans to get back home to England, if at all possible. No longer has the civilly dressed wealthy Englishman, Blunt been stripped of not only his clothes, but also his pride. As he wanders about naked, we are presented not only with a character in utter disbelief of the betrayal and mistreatment to which he has been subjected, but also a character that has grown dangerously enraged. His first reaction to being duped is disbelief, but this sentiment quickly transforms into rage and, as we see in later scenes, irrational, cruel, misdirected violence.
Being duped by Lucetta has made Blunt more sensitive to the ubiquity of deception and dishonesty. Lucetta presents a false front to cheat Blunt, and thus the duped Englishman extends such behavior to other seemingly genuine professions: if a woman lies about loving him, then who’s to say that a physician is not lying about faith, a churchman his commitment to charity, and a poet his or her apparent good-nature? All are deceptive liars in Blunt’s mind. But to be aware of the potential for human dishonesty and deception and to generalize that all humans are deceptive and dishonest are two very different things. Blunt initially appears to have a handle on the former, but he quickly reveals his tendency for the latter. When he notes that he can never again be reconciled to the female sex after being deceived and mistreated by Lucetta, he develops into an extreme and irrational character. When he proceeds to make clear his intentions to seek rev nge on an arbitrary woman for the transgressions of Lucetta, his irrational become a cruel and dangerous mindset. As Florinda becomes the object of his misdirected wrath, Blunt loses any and all hope for redemption as a respectable or even likeable character.
Florinda enters without knowing into Blunt’s chamber, where she dis
covers him sitting on a couch in his shirt and drawers, reading. Blunt speaks aloud of his plans to take revenge on the female sex for What Lucetta has done to him. Florinda tells Blunt that she is seeking shelter and safety, and will be ruined if he does not grant it to her. Blunt pulls her in rudely, determined to take his revenge on her; he tells her that he plans to beat her and kiss her all over. Frederick enters, and Blunt invites him to join him as he beats and rapes Florinda. Both men are set to attack her, when Florinda pleads with them not to hurt her for Belvile’s sake. She recognizes Frederick as a friend of Belvile’s, and tells him that she is very dear to the English colonel. She presents the men with a diamond ring and Frederick, worried that she might actually be a woman a of value, suggests that they hold of raping her until they know for sure, after speaking with Belvile. A servant enters to announce the arrival of Belvile and a Spaniard of quality (i.e. Don Pedro); Frederick leaves with Florinda, and
Blunt locks his door to prevent the entrance of Belvile and company. .
Blunt’s chamber; after
Belvile and company try to knock down the door to repeated attempts, they are successful. Belvile and Willmore scorn Blunt for allowing himself to be duped by Lucetta. Pedro tells Blunt that he is ashamed on behalf of his country for the mistreatment. Blunt tells of his plans to seek revenge on an innocent Spanish woman (i.e. Florinda); all of the men want to see her. Belvile believes that she might be Florinda when he sees the ring that was given to Blunt by her. Don Pedro chases a disguised Florinda around the chamber until Valeria arrives, and tells Pedro that Florinda has fled and that he might be able to catch her if he visits Callis immediately. This lie prompts Pedro to leave, and Florinda hugs Valeria to thank her for diverting him. Florinda reveals herself and forgives all of the men; she makes haste with Belvile to get married at the church. Frederick and Valeria get together. Blunt’s tailor comes with his new dress which he does not like as it makes him look like a Spaniard.
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