Friday, August 12, 2011

Required Work: The Rover

I honestly thought I had gone over all of the plays on the list already, but turns out, Aphra Behn’s The Rover is also a play. This is what happens when you don’t look into the literature before you try to dive right in.


The Rover is considered to be a Restoration Comedy – meaning it was performed in stage between the years of 1660 and 1710. For the 18 years before 1660, the Puritans had banned public stage performances. So at the re-opening of the theaters in 1660, there was a significant resurgence of English drama, with the comedies being notorious for their sexual explicitness. Crowds also enjoyed the topical references and inter-twining plots, both of which are heavily featured in The Rover.


For me, the general over-arching theme seems to be the English vs. the Spanish. People get in fights, blood is drawn, people are put in prison…sometimes the Spanish are fighting amongst themselves, and the same is often true of the English, and it is mostly all over the love (or lust) of a woman. The main issue here is that Belvile, an English Colonel, is in love with Florinda, the sister of Don Pedro, a noble Spaniard. While Florinda reciprocates Belvile’s feelings, both Don Pedro and his father prefer that Florinda marry Don Antonio. The secondary plot centers on the womanizing Willmore, the Rover, and his pursuits of Angellica, a beautiful and rich widow, and Hellena, sister to Florinda, who is supposed to be a nun. Willmore finds himself in trouble with not only Angelica, who soon realizes that he is not the type to remain faithful, but also with his friend Belvile due to Willmore’s inability to keep himself out of trouble and follow through on the most simple instructions because of his love of women and alcohol. It is difficult to say if there is actually a winner between the Spanish and English as almost all of the conflicts appear to be resolved in the end and most of the principle characters end up married off or appeased in one way or another. However, Behn was known for including politics in her work, so these feuds between the Spanish and English were not included on accident.

Most of (but not all) of the bawdy talk and sexual explicitness comes from Willmore as he expresses his views on women and shamelessly pursues him. There are also multiple scenes in which some of the women are in situations where they could be raped. In one scene, Blunt is ready to take advantage of any woman who comes near him as an act of revenge on another woman whom he believed to be in love with him, but turned out to be a thief and a prostitute. Florinda walks into his presence at just the wrong moment, but thankfully is saved by Belvile and with the help of Frederick. Also, as you can probably already tell, the plot of this play is pretty intricate and everyone’s plot line interweaves with everyone else’s. Audiences of Behn’s time would have loved this.


As I already mentioned, this play was written during the Restoration period for English drama. Behn was known for treating any Puritan characters in her plays harshly, and was also not very friendly toward the Dutch either. Before becoming a playwright, Behn was a spy for Charles II against the Dutch. Unfortunately for Behn, then King was slow to pay her, and he may not have at all, so she tried making money with her writing. Behn was able to make a good deal amount of money from the long run of The Rover.

The play’s subtitle, “Banish’d Cavaliers,” refers to the exiled Cavalier forces during the parliamentary and military rule after the English Civil War. Behn based her play on Thomas Killigrew’s Thomaso, or The Wanderer. It is said the Charles II loved the play and was actually very much in favor of sexual references in the dramas of the Restoration period. Willmore also proved to be a popular character, so Behn did a sequel four years later.

As promised I should be able to tackle Margaret Cavendish’s The Blazing World next week. I might (and the operative word here is “might”) also finally bite the bullet and cover William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. I have actually read this book twice already and enjoy it a great deal, I just haven’t been able to get up the courage to try to talk about it and explore into such detail as this test will require. However, ignoring it isn’t going to make it go away…

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