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The Rover by Aphra Behn

The Rover (1677)

by Aphra Behn

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317454,311 (3.5)11
"Behn's best-known comedy is an entirely and openly rewritten version of Thomas Kiligrew's Thomaso, or The Wanderer. It is the story of a band of cavaliers at Naples in carnival time during the exile of Charles II. The Rover was a popular favorite in theaters" --Provided by publisher.



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Carnival is the background for one of Aphra Behn's best known plays. Behn was a British playwright, poet, translator and fiction writer from the Restoration era. She was one of the first English women to earn her living by her writing, breaking cultural barriers and serving as a literary role model for later generations of women authors. Charles II employed her as a spy in Antwerp, but she returned to London and after a brief stay in debtors' prison, she began writing for the stage. She belonged to a coterie of poets that included John Wilmot, Lord Rochester. She wrote under the pastoral pseudonym Astrea.

Based on Thomas Killigrew's play Thomaso, or The Wanderer (1664), The Rover features multiple plot lines, dealing with the amorous adventures of a group of Englishmen in Naples at Carnival time. The titular "rover" of the is Willmore, a rakish 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, falls in love with Willmore and swears revenge on him for his betrayal.

Meanwhile, 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. The play, while entertaining, is more interesting both as an exemplar of authorial Feminism and as an model of the state of drama as it was recovering during the Restoration era. ( )
  jwhenderson | Mar 25, 2017 |
Oh, come now--it's not the greatest thing ever written, but it fulfills the notion of a Restoration Romp. ( )
  Cacuzza | Dec 11, 2013 |
A racy comedy of intrigue, action and amorous adventures set in Naples at carnival time during the exile of Charles II. This edition takes account of critical approaches as well as the play's stage history, and contains commentary notes on language and staging.
  Roger_Scoppie | Apr 3, 2013 |
Behn's The Rover was a very successful adaptation of a very unsuccessful closet drama by Thomas Killigrew called Thomaso, parts I and II. Killigrew's rambling play gets turned into a fairly tight piece of entertainment, debuting in 1677 with an all-star cast that included Nel Gwyn, the most prominent of Charles II's mistresses, as the courtesan Angellica Bianca. The play reflects glowingly on cavaliers who were loyal to the crown during the Civil Wars and represents their plight as expatriate patriots who embody monarchical values through their personal attractions and inalienable erotic pull. In spite of claims of immoral content (which one could easily make about most comedies in the Restoration), Behn's play fared better than those of her bawdy contemporaries. Late eighteenth-century revivals of The Rover probably used a bowdlerized script, but the play continued to hold some interest from a more prudish audience than its original.
Plot Summary: Two sisters, Hellena (the bad one) and Florinda (the sweet one) are in Italy at carnival time. Hellena is supposed to go to a convent to consolidate the family fortunes, and Florinda is destined (thanks to her father) to be married off to the rich old merchant Don Vincentio, but brother Pedro tries to get her to marry his friend Antonio for his own gain, neither of which seem like good ideas. Florinda is in love with the Englishman Bellvile, and Hellena is looking for fun and trouble, which she soon finds in Willmore, the Rover. Willmore, Belville, Frederick, and Blunt are all expatriate royalists, impoverished by supporting Charles II (except for Blunt, who is suspiciously wealthy and therefore politically suspect). They all encounter Angellica Bianca, the famous courtesan, whose fees are too high for Willmore. But she crumbles under the assault of his tremendous sexual appeal and "gives it away" for love, only to find herself betrayed. Furious, she threatens to kill him, but cannot go through with her play. Meanwhile, Willmore and then Blunt nearly rape Florinda on two different occasions, illustrating how fragile her position is as a virtuous woman. Hellenaís bolder and more sexually forthright approach to her social circulation proves safer in the end, since she can hide behind an assumed identity (the gypsy) and use her verbal wit to spar with Willmore about sex.
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1 vote | mmckay | Dec 30, 2007 |
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» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Aphra Behnprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bolam, RobynEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Link, Frederick M.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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