Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 2005
New Characters Valeria: Hellena and Florinda's cousin, a lady.
Sebastian: One of Angelica's servants.
Philippo: Lucetta's true love.
Summary 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...
(The entire section contains 2005 words.)
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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. Hellena reveals her face. Startled by her beauty and gracious features, Willmore heaps praises upon her.
The scene saddens Angelica, who retires to her home. She sends a servant, Sebastian, to follow Hellena and learn her identity, and to tell Willmore to come and speak with her.
The perspective shifts to Belvile, who is sighing heavily for Florinda, since he does not recognize her in her new costume. Playing along, Florinda flirts with him and tries to give him a jewel to test his devotion. Meanwhile, Frederick courts Valeria, although she seems more interested in Belvile and Florinda's interactions.
The action then focuses on Hellena, who suddenly turns the tables on Willmore and asks who he was praising so lavishly to his friends, quoting his words back to him. Stunned, Willmore cannot even put together a sentence. Hellena demands that Willmore kneel and swear to avoid Angelica for all time, which Willmore does. Then Hellena mutters that it is shameful to damn the poor man into breaking his vow. Hellena exits, and Florinda presses her jewel upon Belvile and follows Hellena out.
Upon examining the jewel, Belvile realizes it is a portrait of Florinda, and that he was speaking to her. Overjoyed, he sings her praises. They go off to drink until they can see the ladies again.
In the second Scene, Blunt is led into Lucetta's dim house. There he disrobes and talks to Lucetta, who is lying in bed. He puts out the light at her request, and the bed descends into another room, leaving Blunt nearly naked and alone. He realizes he has been betrayed and robbed.
Lucetta and Philippo discuss the booty they have gotten from Blunt. Philippo reassures Lucetta that Blunt will never find this house again and does not know her name or even her street. Lucetta teases Philippo that Blunt deserved at least one night in exchange for all his possessions, but Philippo claims jealousy and asks Sancho to lock up the stolen goods while they go to bed together.
The cursing, infuriated, sober and filthy Blunt crawls to the shore. His pride has been sorely injured, and he does not want to face his friends. He leaves to try and get back his lodgings.
Scene three shifts to Florinda, waiting in a garden, undressed, with a key and a box of jewels. She unlocks the garden gate and thanks fortune for allowing her to escape Callis. She hides the box and so does not see the drunken Willmore enter, looking for a place to sleep. Full of drunken bravado and his usual lewd charm, Willmore thoroughly terrifies Florinda and tries to kiss her. He then promises not to stain her honor if she has sex with him, since he doesn't even know her name. He tries to force himself upon her and pulls at her nightdress.
Later, Belvile enters with Frederick, angry that they've lost Willmore. They hear a woman crying out for help. Realizing it is Florinda, Belvile runs to her rescue. Willmore draws his sword. Terrified of her brother hearing the ruckus, Florinda tells Belvile to wait under her window for instructions and runs back to her room.
Pedro enters and orders Stephano to see if Florinda is safe, and then begins to fight the strange men out of the garden. Stephano returns and assures Pedro that Florinda is asleep and safe. Pedro wonders how the garden gate came to be unlatched.
In the Scene Four, we see Belvile raging at Willmore for his attempted rape of Florinda. Frederick holds Belvile back until they realize how drunk Willmore is, and they forgive him for being his usual insolent, lewd self. Belvile wishes he knew who to fight to win Florinda, but agrees to fight Willmore if he finds no worthier opponent the next day. Willmore tries to return to Angelica's bed but finds that Antonio has already paid for her. Antonio and Willmore draw swords and fight, and somehow the drunken Willmore prevails. Antonio is mistakenly declared dead, and Willmore flees the scene. Not having seen Willmore escape, Belvile tries to come to his aid but is then arrested for having started the brawl. Antonio, who has been wounded but not killed, identifies Belvile as a man who has attacked him before, and he orders him taken to his apartment.
Just like Angelica, Hellena is startled by her sudden love for Willmore. She had not expected to fall in love, but merely wanted to secure her freedom from the convent. Angelica's shift out of emotionless, money-driven sex into bedding a pirate rogue illustrates a similar shift in focus and attitude. Both women abandon the logical goals they had chosen for themselves in order to pursue someone who clearly cannot satisfy those goals: Willmore is penniless and inconstant, so he will make neither a good husband nor a good supporter. In this way, Behn portrays love as something inescapable, a force that overwhelms reason and can place obstacles in the way of stated goals and financial success. Willmore's incessant lewdness and obvious inconstancy cannot be overlooked, but Hellena feels she must try to win him despite them. Similarly, Angelica knows that Willmore cannot provide for her financially and will ruin her business scheme in Naples, but she cannot resist him and wants to be near him.
Belvile and Florinda offer a different kind of love story. They are committed to each other completely. Their love is reciprocal and without internal obstacles (unlike Willmore, Belvile has no interest in other women). However, they are beset by outside difficulties. Again and again, circumstances conspire to keep them apart. Even when Pedro tries to stop Florinda's marriage to Don Vincentio, he suggests his best friend Antonio. When Belvile is talking to Florinda, she doesn't reveal her identity. Yet they are devoted to each other despite Florinda's father, brother, Antonio and Don Vincentio's possible wrath. They are committed to one another and simply need an opportunity to confirm their adoration legally.
Willmore and Hellena are an odd couple compared with Belvile and Florinda. Willmore seems to genuinely fall in love with every wench he sees, and seems to have little control over his own impulses. Even though he truly enjoyed flirting with his Gypsy, he also enjoyed having Angelica for free. He swears love freely and without meaning, but laughs or withdraws whenever marriage is discussed. However, Hellena can outwit him into promising to marry her. She traps him into saying he would by announcing how much the institution of marriage bores her. What Willmore does not realize is that only marriage can free Hellena from being ordered about by her father and brother. She must trade one male master for another, whether or not she thinks the institution itself worth joining.
On the other hand, Blunt's character provides some comic relief. When Lucetta, Sancho and Philippo rob Blunt, they do so in the most embarrassing fashion imaginable. They leave him nearly naked, filthy, and in a strange place. He has nothing, not even good sex, to brag about to his friends. Blunt could be the metaphorical sacrificial lamb of the play, the one who pays for his love and trust in a strange city with all of his possessions. Not everyone can be lucky, especially in the uproar of Carnival in a city full of women who have been forced to become whores by necessity.
However, Blunt is not the only character placed in grave peril. Willmore's escapade with Florinda in the garden shows another danger. The near rape highlights the precarious balance women had to maintain at all times. They needed both beauty to impress men and protection to keep those same men at a distance. Simply being caught alone was cause enough to make a woman appear to be a harlot. Florinda's words are not enough to keep her safe, and she cannot imagine a way to escape. She trusts that gentlemen will respect her honor and chastity, but Behn shows that trust to be utterly foolish. Gentlemanly behavior and words co-exist comfortably with sporting and sexual brutality. Willmore's words echo those of a lover's but are seen through the prism of the violent action that he is willing to take.
Belvile's fortuitous rescue of Florinda and rage at Willmore show that romantic love ultimately trumps friendship. In a rage at the possible violation of his woman, Belvile draws his sword on Willmore. Willmore's absolute lack of remorse, and Belvile and Frederick's forgiveness of him, then mean that a woman's honor, if preserved, is all that matters. Had Willmore succeeded in raping Florinda, the friends probably would have parted. However, only moments after attempting to kill Willmore, Belvile comes to his assistance. After all, there was no harm done if Florinda wasn't actually raped. This near-rape, however, inserts a dark vein into the comedy. Florinda's inability to escape Willmore alone indicates the weak position that females are placed in when males feel free license to use them. For all Willmore's buffoonery, in the final analysis he is able to threaten a wealthy gentlewoman who cannot defend herself.
Willmore's attempts at promiscuity and drunken rambles give clear evidence that he is no prize. Yet Hellena's love for him transcends his irascibility, his lewdness, and his inconstancy. Unlike Angelica, she knows she can forgive his escapades. She imagines that she can keep him because she will be the only one to put up with him. Thus, Hellena makes clear that her worth does not lie in her virginity or her sex. Hellena's worth lies in her ability to love, think and imagine. She is a powerful character even though she is trapped by her sex into powerful machinations to try and control her future.