Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Willmore, the Rover, arrives in Naples where he meets his fellow exiles Blunt, Frederick, and Belvile. They begin rather aimless adventures in quest of pleasure. Although Willmore is an example of the appealing, energetic Restoration hero of wit, it is the women characters who, indirectly, control the action. Hellena, destined by her father for a convent, wishes another kind of life and is willing to venture into the carnival setting to seek it. Once she has seen Willmore, she decides to make him her husband, even if she must pursue him in disguise. In order to thwart his affair with Angellica, an aged former mistress of a Spanish general, she disguises herself as a page. Her sister Florinda has been promised, against her will, to Antonio. Florinda has been in love with Belvile since he saved her life and that of her brother Don Pedro during a battle. Despite numerous mishaps and mistakes that endanger her, she manages to win Belvile in the end. Both women achieve marriages that will assure financial independence and compatibility and will not require excessive emotional commitment.
Not all pleasure seeking, however, achieves its ends. Behn implies that the persons must possess some attractive qualities and panache. Blunt, crudely direct in his hedonism, finds himself deceived and robbed by a courtesan. He represents the naïve country squire of Restoration comedy, who becomes the butt of farcical humor. On the other hand, Willmore’s...
(The entire section is 342 words.)
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The prologue in rhyming couplets portends a play that is not just ‘‘good conversation’’, as conventional plays present, but is full of "wit" and "deboches" [debauches], as is life.
The scene untraditionally opens on two women. Sisters Hellena and Florinda are discussing love, which the younger sister Hellena wants to experience before her brother sends her to a nunnery, and Florinda coyly tells about her beau, an English colonel. They are interrupted by their brother, Don Pedro, who announces that, to prevent Florinda from having to marry her father's choice for her, an old man, she must marry Don Pedro's friend, Don Antonio, the next day. The girls decide to go to the carnival that night in masks and costumed as gypsy whores to exploit their independence before it is stifled by their prearranged futures, and Florinda hopes to encounter Belvile to tell him that she loves him. Their cousin, Valeria, and their governess, Callis, accompany them. Very soon they meet four English gentlemen who are also heading to the carnival.
Hellena meets and sets a date with an English sailor, Captain Willmore, who shares her goal of enjoying as many fleeting encounters with the opposite sex as he can during his two-day leave. Florinda is also successful, for she meets Colonel Belvile, the man she had fallen in love with when he protected her and her brother during the siege of Pamploma. Behind...
(The entire section is 1457 words.)
Summary and Analysis
Summary and Analysis: Prologue and Act I, scenes i – ii
Author: The anonymous author of the work, presumably a man.
Florinda: A good noblewoman who is supposed to marry a rich, old fool (Don Vincentio) but is in love with a young gallant (Belvile).
Hellena: Florinda's sister, who resists the decree that she should go to a nunnery.
Don Vincentio: The wealthy young man Florinda is supposed to marry.
Don Belvile: A young English colonel who is in love with Florinda but has no money.
Don Pedro: A young man who is friends with Florinda and Hellena's father, who would like to thwart Florinda's intended marriage.
Stephano: Servant to Don Pedro.
Callis: Governess of Florinda and Hellena.
Antonio: Don Pedro's friend, a gallant young man and son of the Viceroy, who would like to marry Florinda.
Frederick: A friend and traveling companion of Belvile and Blunt.
Blunt: An Englishman and gentleman buffoon traveling with Belvile and Blunt.
Angelica: The widow of a Spanish general, now turned whore.
Lucetta: A girl hoping to profit through rich men.
Sancho: Lucetta's seeming pimp.
Aphra Behn's Restoration comedy The Rover begins with a prologue defending the writer. The byline declares that the Prologue has been written by a "person of quality," and the Prologue goes on to say that everyone has different tastes, and that while the theater's "in-group" will probably hate the play, that does not mean that it's a bad play. The Prologue reads as if its writer has received bad reviews and now chastises reviewers and audiences alike for not judging a play based on its own merits. It concludes by declaring that playwrights labor over every line of their work in order to create truly realistic dialogue and situations, so a successful play is one in which the characters' reactions and the plot are familiar to all. The writer further tells the audience that they are present not because they seek refined works of high quality, but because they prefer plays stuffed with jokes and dissipation, and that that is what the anonymous author of the play—a "he," according to the Prologue—has attempted to provide.
The action opens with Florinda chastising Hellena for her endless questions about love and lovers. Florinda reminds Hellena she is nunnery-bound and should not consider...
(The entire section is 2058 words.)
Summary and Analysis: Act II, scenes i – ii
Moretta: Angelica's servant.
Diego: Antonio's page.
Musicians: Traveling with the Vice Roy's son, they are intended to impress Angelica with Antonio and his money.
Belvile and Frederick, both masked, stand by a garden gate. Willmore enters without a disguise. He dismisses their fears of being recognized for their felonious activity by saying that the Gypsy he flirted with would be unable to recognize him. He says that the woman has activated his heart. Blunt enters and declares that he is in love with the young woman he had been flirting with, and that he will sell his property in England to live beside her. Upon further questioning, Blunt reveals that he does not know her name and that he gave her nothing, not even a penny, because she is a "woman of quality." This phrase has been used by Frederick and Belvile in their defense of Florinda. Frederick demands the communal purse from Blunt before he goes back to see his "woman of quality" again, and Blunt gives it up easily, but Frederick insists that he keep his own money. Blunt tells them about the woman's house, her jewels and her servants. His three companions are all skeptical, and Belvile tells him that the richest women in Naples are whores.
The debate is interrupted when Angelica's servants hang her portrait on her front gate. Willmore cannot keep his eyes off of it. All three are flabbergasted by the 1,000 crown price to have Angelica for a month, and they all curse her for being so beautiful and so expensive. They laugh and leave as the masked Don Pedro and his servant Stephano enter. Angelica and Moretta watch from the balcony, and Angelica is flattered and proud of the positive assessment the loutish men have given her. Moretta recognizes Don Pedro as one who was formerly enamored with Angelica and remembers that he has come into an inheritance, and Angelica reveals that she has never been in love.
The masked Don Antonio and Diego, his page, enter along with musicians. Antonio comments that he would be in love with Angelica, but that the portrait painter flattered her; Don Pedro leaps to her defense, praising her beauty, and Antonio says that he has been convinced, and that he'll pay her price. Diego tells him Florinda won't miss his love, and Don Pedro realizes that he speaks with Antonio, that Florinda is scorned, and that Antonio can pay more.
(The entire section is 1568 words.)
Summary and Analysis: Act III, scenes i – iv Summary and Analysis
Valeria: Hellena and Florinda's cousin, a lady.
Sebastian: One of Angelica's servants.
Philippo: Lucetta's true love.
The three ladies, Florinda, Hellena and Valeria, enter in new gowns and masks, dressed as Gypsies, followed by Callis. Valeria and Florinda tease Hellena about being in love with the handsome British man she flirted with earlier, and Hellena admits she cannot get him out of her mind. Willmore is not at the assigned meeting place, and Hellena realizes she is jealous of whatever woman he is with. Resolved to be someone's lover, Hellena questions whether she can succeed without the inconstant Willmore.
The women step aside when they see Blunt, Belvile and Frederick enter. The men are discussing who has paid Angelica's price, as her portrait has been removed, indicating she is no longer for sale. They decide to knock to see if Willmore is inside. Willmore emerges and Hellena becomes cross. By singing Angelica's praises to his friends, Willmore increases Hellena's anger. Willmore then declares himself satiated with women and ready for food and wine. Saddened by distance from his lady, Blunt becomes overjoyed when Sancho pulls him aside and tells him that Lucetta awaits. Blunt follows Sancho.
Belvile asks about the adorable Gypsy Willmore had flirted with earlier, and Willmore damns him for reminding him of that provocative woman. Hellena sneaks up behind Willmore, startling him. He rebukes her for making him wait all day, and she teases him, saying he must have looked everywhere for her. Willmore talks of his depression and eagerness with such conviction that Hellena finds she cannot but excuse him his lies. Willmore begs to see her face, and Hellena asks if he'd "fall to, before a Priest says grace," implying that she wants marriage. Appalled, Willmore chastises her.
Meanwhile, Angelica and her servants enter masked. Upon spotting Willmore flirting so heartily with another woman, Angelica becomes angry.
Hellena jokes and teases Willmore into saying, "Do not abuse me, for fear I should take thee at thy word, and marry thee indeed, which I'm sure will be Revenge sufficient." Hellena responds that two such inconstant souls clearly have a shared destiny, and that a young woman with a handsome face has only a short time to gather friends and lovers and would be foolish to be monogamous....
(The entire section is 2005 words.)
Summary and Analysis: Act IV, scenes i – iii Summary and Analysis
Alone, in the dark, Belvile opens the Act by railing against his fate, which he assumes is to die without honor. Antonio enters with a light, a sword, and his arm in a sling. Antonio asks why Belvile keeps attacking him. Belvile explains that Willmore provoked both incidents, and Belvile merely came to his friend's aid. Antonio reveals that he is the Vice-Roy's son and gives Belvile the sword. Overwhelmed with gratitude at having escaped a life sentence or death for fighting such an eminent person, Belvile promises to do anything for Antonio.
Antonio asks Belvile to fight "a Rival" (Pedro, from Act II, scene i) for the hand of a woman, since Antonio has been injured and cannot. Furthermore, Antonio tells Belvile to fight dressed as, and in the name of, Antonio. Belvile thanks fortune for the opportunity to wound another rival for Florinda's hand.
Because Belvile has failed to appear at Florinda's window as instructed, the second Scene opens with Florinda expressing her panic and worry about his safety. It is dawn and the duel is about to begin. Stephano says he does not know who is to fight Pedro, and he slips away before Pedro can discover that Florinda is at the scene of the duel. The masked Pedro paces into sight, cursing Antonio's tardiness. Reassured that Belvile is not at risk, Florinda settles to watch the fight as Belvile enters disguised as Antonio.
Pedro calls out to Belvile, accusing him of taking Angelica. Confused, Belvile asks himself why they fight for a common whore and not Florinda but begins fighting anyway. Florinda rushes into the melee. They fight despite her, and Belvile disarms Pedro. Florinda intercedes and Belvile lays his sword at Florinda's feet. Pedro accepts "Antonio" as being in love with Florinda, and Belvile gives him his sword back, declaring he'll fight forever for Florinda. Pedro asks if Belvile will swear to love Florinda and no other, and Belvile agrees and demands marriage that very minute. Pedro agrees, partially to thwart his father, who will return that evening. Pedro tells Belvile to meet them at St. Peter's Church.
Because of Florinda's protests, Belvile pulls her aside and removes his mask, so that she may know who it is she has been engaged to. While she swoons in his arms, Frederick and Willmore enter, and Willmore runs to embrace Belvile. His mask drops, and Pedro sees him and takes Florinda from him. Cursing, Belvile asserts...
(The entire section is 2388 words.)
Summary and Analysis: Act V
Belvile calls Blunt from outside the locked door, but Blunt does not answer. Belvile has a servant batter the door with a chair, and Blunt calls out that he is "a little busy." First pretending to be engaged in business, then prayer, Blunt finally announces he has a girl inside. Belvile calls out to open the door and share the fun, and he has the servants break down the door.
Belvile, Willmore, Frederick, Pedro and a servant enter and begin to laugh at Blunt and his strange attire. They mock Blunt for not knowing that the woman was a thief and a whore and for coming to her defense. Blunt threatens to fight them. Pedro apologizes on behalf of his country. Regaining his composure, Blunt praises Pedro and tells his friends that a woman assaulted him in this room and would have raped him had he not had his sword ready. Frederick tells them all that the woman redeemed herself with a ring, and Blunt proudly produces it.
Belvile instantly recognizes the ring as the one he gave Florinda. He whispers to Blunt to be quiet and not reveal the woman or the story. Pedro and Willmore clamor to see the woman. Belvile announces that he who has the longest sword gets the girl, and they all draw. However, Spanish swords are longer than British swords, so Pedro's is the longest. At a loss of what to do, Belvile allows Frederick to take Pedro to the girl.
A moment later, the masked Florinda runs into the room, pursued by Pedro and with Willmore lustily following her with his eyes. Willmore recognizes her as the woman he followed and tells them all that perhaps the lady needs to choose her man willingly, rather than be forced. Pedro agrees to this. Before Florinda can speak, Valeria rushes into the room. Seeing Don Pedro, she does not know what to do and tells him that she has been seeking him. He inquires if Florinda is safe, so Valeria knows she has not been discovered yet. Valeria tells Pedro that Florinda escaped in servant's clothes, and Callis will tell the rest of the story if Pedro goes to her.
Pedro tells Belvile to return Florinda if she comes to him, and he leaves to find Callis. Valeria quickly tells Belvile and Florinda to marry before Pedro returns. Frederick and Willmore are pardoned by Florinda for the near gang-rape as long as they marry a woman who does not hate them. Frederick denies his very nature by agreeing, but Belvile calls him on this change of heart. Valeria...
(The entire section is 2113 words.)