Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1568
Moretta: Angelica's servant.
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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.
On the balcony, Angelica begins singing and playing the lute. Her song tells of a handsome shepherd who takes a bashful young maiden and shows her the joys of love with "kind force" because she never would have yielded on her own. Infatuated, Antonio calls up to her and removes his mask. Still masked, Don Pedro looks with fury upon him, as Antonio is supposed to marry Don Pedro's sister, Florinda. Antonio agrees to pay the price, and Don Pedro argues that he was first in line. Swords are drawn and they fight. Willmore and Blunt step in and stop the fight, with Willmore reminding them that Carnival is for lovers only. Pedro and Antonio agree to duel the next morning, and Pedro accuses Antonio of ruining Florinda. Confused, Antonio assumes his opponent must be the English colonel.
Meanwhile, Willmore pulls down a small portrait of Angelica and carries it off, muttering about her beauty. Antonio follows him with the accusation that Willmore has insulted Angelica. Willmore refuses to return the portrait, and they fight. Angelica calls down from the balcony to stop them, and Willmore quickly asserts that he was wounded with her beauty and needs her portrait as a healing salve. Angelica tries to give him the portrait, but again Antonio fights Willmore over it. Belvile and Frederick enter to help Willmore. Angelica's servants separate them as Angelica and Moretta mourn the money that could have been made before the ruckus began. Willmore manages to calm Angelica with flattery, and she demands that he enter and explain himself. His friends urge him to run, but Willmore continues inside. Frederick's explanation is that "the Rogue's stark mad for a Wench."
Scene two follows with Willmore inside Angelica's house where Angelica asks him why he has been so insolent. Willmore accuses her of entrapping mortals with her beauty and her infernal price. Taken aback, Angelica asks Moretta to bring a looking glass so that Willmore can survey his own charms. Moretta insults him under her breath, but Angelica calls him a "poor Creature." Willmore then tries to bargain, saying he will give a pistole (a gold coin) and would like the treatment for a few minutes, proportional to what he would get if he had 1,000 crowns and paid for a month. When they tell him that Angelica is only available for all or nothing, Willmore says he will find friends to each pay a share and then take turns for the month. Strangely, Angelica finds herself remaining calm. She keeps her composure even when Willmore calls himself a gentleman and says he would never sell himself, that she is beautiful but it is beyond comprehension that she sells herself. He holds her for a moment and gazes into her eyes and rapturously tells her how beautiful she is, and then releases her.
Angelica is moved by Willmore's apparent honesty, but nevertheless sends him away. Willmore calls out more lewd half-compliments, and Moretta mutters that Angelica must be "bewitched" to listen to such "saucy railing," and she orders Willmore away. Angelica agrees but asks Willmore why, before marriage, every man wants to know the fortune a wife would bring him. Willmore condemns such behavior as much as prostitution. Rapt, Angelica professes adoration of Willmore's soul and offers to be his lover. Maddened by what he perceives as a whore's machinations, Willmore turns away, and Angelica wonders aloud if her first vows of love are to be scorned. Pride forces Angelica away from Willmore, but he catches her and holds her, demanding that she show her love with her body.
With love declared both ways, Angelica demands a price be paid. Willmore cries that she has spoiled his worship of the divine with material matters. Angelica responds that it was only love that she wanted in exchange. They exit together still vowing love. Moretta is left alone, cursing love for ruining a perfectly good venture, and the love of a "Pirate-Beggar," not even a rich man.
In the second Act, Behn expands upon the theme of women's power. Angelica's beauty turns the men to idiots, and her outrageous price illustrates the lure of a beautiful woman. However, Willmore's fiercely negative assessment of any form of prostitution, including the practice among men of finding out a woman's worth before agreeing to marry her, seems to suggest that love should depend on characteristics other than inheritance. Thus, Angelica's falling in love with Willmore despite his lack of money makes her business partner Moretta angry, but his poverty cannot keep her from loving him. Love transcends money. It is conversation and unconventional ideas that woo Angelica, not wealth or power. The life Angelica has created out of her own imaginative use of her inherent traits, and Moretta's fearful cursing of love for interfering with prostitution, shows that money and love can be in direct opposition to one another.
Paired with Florinda's situation in the first Act, Angelica's circumstance is an interesting inverse of the trap of being a woman. If the hunt for money was cold-blooded, it would be easy to marry a rich, old man for his fortune, just as it would be easy to continue a life of successful prostitution. However, other desires take precedent. The desire to love, to express love freely, and to make one's own choices, for instance, trumps the desire of financial security. The Rover criticizes arranged and loveless marriages, and the polarity between the lovers (the underdogs) and the men who try to define the lives of the women (the watchdogs) is an important part of the play.
Behn herself modeled an unconventional lifestyle. When her husband died in 1666, she took the extremely unusual step of turning to writing to earn a living. At the time, an upper-class woman living alone and working was uncommon enough, but to sell her ideas and her words was tantamount to prostituting herself. Thus, Behn imagined a way out of being dependent on a man, but at the cost of her reputation. Her writing was considered scandalous at the time simply because she was a woman.
By setting her play in Italy during Carnival, Behn allows her female characters to use their imagination and intuition to invent new lives for themselves, outside of what society had intended for them, without ruining their reputations. Hellena and Florinda participate in the excesses of the Carnival along with the rest of the city. They do not lose their honor by dressing in costumes, pursuing men or even by disobeying their brother and father. Instead, they are given freedom to act because the circumstances allow such otherwise outrageous behavior, even from women. Carnival embraces and accepts the blurring of class and gender lines while encouraging people to act out of their base desires. Thus, the choice of Carnival would have allowed the British audience to feel distanced enough from the subject matter to be more able and willing to accept the behavior of the characters.