The Rover Questions and Answers
by Aphra Behn

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Explain The Rover as a restoration comedy.

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The Restoration of Charles II to the English throne occurred in 1660 and with it, a new sub-genre of theatre began: Restoration Comedy. Restoration comedies were often bawdy (see William Wycherley's The Country Wife) and generally light in tone. The rise in popularity of such works is likely due to the merry attitude of Charles II as well as the general fatigue England felt after its many civil wars. People wanted entertainment that was light-heartened and satirical rather than Shakespearean tragedy.

Largely, The Rover embodies the spirit of Restoration Comedy, especially in its first half. Much of the enjoyment derived from the play comes from farce—that is, the slapstick tomfoolery and hijinks that the characters get themselves into. Take for instance, Lucetta's deception of the doltish Blunt which leaves him naked and without money. This scene is played purely for laugh as a likable character is able to fool someone who is unlikable.

However, despite its general adherence to the standards of Renaissance comedy, The Rover takes on a much darker tone in its second half: Lucetta's trick angers Blunt and he attempts to rape her. Though the rape never comes to fruition, it is still disturbing, especially to contemporary audiences.

The Rover is also unusual in that it takes a rather progressive stance on gender roles and female sexuality. For example, Angellica Bianca—whose initials mirror those of Aphra Behn, the play's author—despite being a prostitute, is perhaps the most morally conscious person in play.

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To begin, a Restoration Comedy, also known as the comedy of manners, is a style of theater in England that was written and performed in the Restoration period from approximately 1660 to 1710. Works in the genre would satirize the manners and affectation of society. They were also known for their sexually explicit language, current topical plots, and rise of celebrity actors, including the insertion of female actors on stage. Some of the most well-known Restoration Comedies included The Country Wife by William Wycherley, The Man of Mode by George Etherege, and The Way of the World by William Congreve.

The Rover, or The Banish’d Cavaliers is a play by Aphra Behn. Considered to be Behn’s most popular and respected play, t is a revision of Thomas Killigrew’s Thomaso, or The Wanderer. The play follows a group of English gentlemen in Naples during Carnival. Following the ideals of Restoration Comedies and the idea of topical writing, the subtitle, The Banish’d Cavaliers is a reference to Royalists who had gone into exile along with Charles II during the English Interregnum. As many Resoration Comedies do, The Rover features themes of love and marriage through the lens of the sexes. Behn’s commentary of the male versus women dynamic is told with strong, intelligent women, unlike many Restoration comedies that feature female characters that are reduced to doting virgins or eccentric whores.

Premiering in 1677, with The Rover being one of Behn’s most successful pieces, the play not only earned Behn an extended run, something popular with Restoration Comedies, but allowed Behm to write a sequel that was produced in 1681.