The Rover, by Aphra Behn


Behn's work should always be read with an eye toward her contemporary political world. She was a Royalist, and her works frequently treat Puritans and democracy roughly. The subtitle "Banish'd Cavaliers" is a reference to the world of exile that the Cavalier forces experienced during the interregnum.

Behn based her play on Thomas Killigrew's Thomaso, or The Wanderer (1664). She was criticised for this, although her play is superior in wit, and she wrote the Postscript in response to her critics.

The play features multiple plots, dealing with the amorous adventures of a group of Englishmen in Naples at Carnival time. The "rover" of the play's title is Willmore, a rake and naval captain, who falls in love with a young woman named Hellena, who has set out to experience love before her brother sends her to a convent. Complications arise when Angellica Bianca, a famous courtesan who falls in love with Willmore, swears revenge on him for his betrayal. In another plot, Hellena's sister Florinda attempts to marry her true love, Colonel Belvile, rather than the man her brother has selected. The third major plot of the play deals with the provincial Blunt, who becomes convinced that a girl has fallen in love with him but is humiliated when she turns out to be a prostitute and a thief.

Willmore (who may have been a parallel to Charles II or John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester) proved to be an extremely popular character, and four years later Behn wrote a sequel (Part II).

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:51