Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 2388
Summary 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 that he won the right to her. Willmore draws his sword to separate Florinda from Pedro, but Belvile swears at him to desist and not harm the brother of Florinda.
Pedro exits with Florinda, leaving Belvile and Willmore arguing. The uncomprehending Willmore asks what he has done wrong, and Belvile draws his sword and chases him offstage, but Frederick keeps Belvile from following. Angelica sees Willmore leaving and sends Sebastian after him.
Moretta chastises Angelica for giving Willmore money when he was just a common fool, and Angelica's jealous, angry state worsens. Willmore returns dressed in new, tailored clothing. Angelica declares she will revenge herself upon him. In response, Willmore tells her that brooding lovers are not really lovers at all. Angelica says she will take on the tasks of his new, virtuous mistress if it will bring him back to her. Astonished, Willmore asks what on earth he would do with a woman full of virtues. He calls virtue "an Infirmity in Women." Angelica changes her attack by accusing him of pursuing the 2,000 crowns in that Gypsy woman's purse, and Willmore tells himself that he knew she was...
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of quality and longs to be with Hellena.
At that moment, Hellena enters, dressed as a man. She recognizes Angelica and Willmore and knows that Willmore has broken his vow but loves him the more for it. Meanwhile, Willmore tries to get Angelica to dismiss him, but she demands that he stay. Hellena intrudes, saying that she is the friend of a woman in love with a charming English gentleman. Afraid the young man (Hellena) is referring to Willmore, Angelica dismisses Willmore. However, Willmore is so intrigued by this that he stays. Hellena continues, saying that the young maid was abandoned at the altar, and that the English man had come to Angelica instead. Angelica turns to Willmore and accuses him of using the money she gave him to buy wedding clothes. Hellena interrupts, saying that the English gentleman is of high quality, though inconstant. Both Hellena and Angelica accuse Willmore of inconstancy and infidelity, and Willmore paces in distress.
Willmore finally thinks he understands what is going on. He assumes some lady has seen him from her window and has sent this young fellow as an emissary to get him. He begs Hellena to tell him the name of the lady, but Hellena reproves him, asking if he has already forgotten his bride's name. The confused and distraught Willmore begs Angelica not to believe the boy, and for the first time looks at the young fellow carefully. Realizing it is Hellena, he threatens to reveal her identity to Angelica. Instead, he tells Angelica that the young boy is the emissary not of a lady, but of a smooth-talking Gypsy who is less satisfying than a dream. Angelica replies that she knows that Gypsy is a Spanish gentlewoman and demands that Willmore promise not to marry her. The nervous Hellena wonders if her "rogueries" will backfire and leave her without Willmore. Willmore tells them he would only marry a young sinner who was free with her body and her charms.
Sebastian enters to tell them that Antonio approaches, and Hellena flees before she is recognized. Angelica says she will see Antonio, and Willmore asks to leave. Seeing through his protests, Angelica releases him, though she feels pain and sorrow at how quickly and readily he leaves her.
The focus in the third Scene shifts to Valeria and Florinda, who are in new disguises, fleeing down the street. They have escaped by locking Callis in a wardrobe and are trying to meet Belvile, who has been given warning that Pedro is searching every church for him. As they speak of their plans, Belvile and Pedro enter talking, accompanied by Willmore. Florinda goes on ahead of Valeria so that they will not be recognized, and she fearfully looks back behind her. Willmore views this as an invitation and pursues her. No one recognizes Florinda or stops Willmore from chasing her. Frederick enters with the news that Blunt has returned from his date with the "lady of quality" with only his drawers and his undershirt, and Belvile laughs and persuades Pedro to come see the ridiculous, wretched Blunt, who is in a foul humor. In an aside to the audience, Belvile reveals that he wants to give Florinda time to escape.
Florinda flees as Pedro approaches, and Willmore follows Florinda. Valeria follows Willmore, and Hellena enters and sees Willmore chasing another woman and sends her page to follow him as well. Terrified, Florinda darts into an open door. The page returns to Hellena with the news of the house, and Valeria waits outside so that Willmore won't notice the lodging that Florinda has entered, which happens to be Belvile's.
The focus changes to Blunt, who is in his night shirt and drawers and prepared to die rather than lose his honor. He puts on a rusty sword and belt to defend himself against laughter and declares that he will avenge himself on all womankind forever. Florinda enters a moment later and begs Blunt to give her refuge from a terrible fate. Pleased at the sudden granting of his wish, Blunt declares he will have sex with her, protests or no. He is about to force her to the bed when Frederick enters, ready to join in the fun. Blunt tells him to wait his turn so that they may share her. Desperate, Florinda mentions Belvile and gives Blunt a diamond ring. Frederick pauses and says that they should wait and see whether she is a common harlot or a woman of quality. Blunt reluctantly agrees to wait until they ask Belvile before satisfying themselves with her.
A servant summons Blunt to a dinner with Belvile. Embarrassed, Blunt orders Frederick to take the girl and tells the servant that he will not attend the dinner.
Analysis Willmore's constant, inadvertent meddling of the circumstances around Belvile and Florinda again causes Belvile to draw his sword upon Willmore. Yet Willmore's act this time is not inherently reprehensible – he has merely greeted a friend warmly. However, both his attempted rape of Florinda and his greeting of Belvile share one characteristic: they are both honest expressions of emotions. He genuinely wanted to sleep with Florinda, and he genuinely wanted to embrace Belvile. Then, when he realizes he has interfered, Willmore draws his sword to try and salvage the situation and return Florinda to Belvile. Yet once again he has made the wrong choice. It is as if Willmore isn't savvy enough for the delicate machinations of courtly love. He fails to connive and notice small details, and so he thwarts courtly love simply by being honest. As a penniless rover, this suggests that Willmore's penchant for lewdness emerges from the expression of his honest desires. This would of course be flattering to King Charles II, who had many mistresses and many sexual exploits. In this way, Willmore can be construed as the buffoon who loves too many, all at once, and so cannot simply love.
The cooperation between women in this Act of The Rover is a marked departure from its source, Thomaso. Valeria and Florinda join arms in a way that allows them to not only have an adventure, but to seek their own fates. Females cooperate at different points in the play, notably in the first scene, where Hellena boldly defends her sister against Pedro.
This cooperation mirrors that of the men in the play, who come to each other's aid on a regular basis. Belvile fights for Willmore, but when granted a reprieve from death, he fights equally hard for Antonio. Blunt and Frederick are ready to gang-rape Florinda, but Florinda has no woman to help her and so cannot escape except by invoking the name of a male and flourishing a diamond ring. Fear of consequences, not fear of women or Florinda, halts the men in their shared lust.
Interestingly, another example of female cooperation occurs in disguise. Hellena and Angelica together admonish Willmore for his inconstancy. Angelica doesn't even know she has allied with a female; Angelica simply expresses her own anger. However, Hellena uses Angelica's anger to torment Willmore and exacerbate Angelica's jealous state of mind. Angelica and Hellena agree in word, but Angelica believes in the principle she espouses, while Hellena has explicitly says that Willmore's roving eye and promiscuity do not bother her. Their alliance cannot be complete because Angelica does not know that another female stands with her.
Needing to appear beautiful in order to capture a husband creates an insufferable tension, since that same beauty makes the woman vulnerable to male lust. Embarrassed at the state a woman has reduced him to, Blunt is ready to exact revenge upon the innocent Florinda, and Frederick is perfectly willing to participate. Florinda is beautiful and readily available, and just as in the scene in the garden with Willmore, this is more than enough. Yet Belvile would not love her were it not for her beauty, which is what first caught his eye and allowed their love to begin. Similarly, Willmore's attraction to Angelica is entirely based upon her beauty, which has also secured her business and future. Yet Angelica derives great pride and enjoyment from being desired. She does not seem to care about the sexual act, but she demands love continuously. Her beauty makes her an object of flattery, and so for Angelica beauty, not sex, gives her pride and ultimately makes her susceptible to Willmore's flattery, even despite his poverty.
Hellena expresses sensual desires, but Angelica has financial reasons for becoming a prostitute and then enjoys men's loutish assessments of her beauty. Unlike Hellena, Angelica desires outside approval for her beauty. Willmore's honest desire for Angelica overwhelms her reason and causes her to become envious, to ruin her business, and to pursue an obviously incompatible man. Angelica's need to be beautiful has led her into love, but her beauty alone is not enough. Behn uses Angelica to demonstrate the folly of appearance-based love.
Angelica's pursuit of Willmore, however, does not have the same ingenuity that Hellena's does. Angelica straightforwardly expresses her wish to have Willmore to herself, becomes angry when he flirts with other women, and upbraids him for inconstancy whenever she sees him. She nags and argues and offers her body. Hellena, on the other hand, gives Willmore full permission to do as he wishes. Hellena makes him swear to love only her, but then condemns herself for do that and pardons him for breaking the oath immediately. She teases him rather than argues with him, and she agrees that virtue is overrated. Furthermore, Hellena does not require that Willmore's movements or inclinations be curtailed. By saying she is against marriage, yet constantly bringing their conversations back to it, she manages to twist Willmore into thinking that he would somehow be exacting revenge if they were to marry.
This twist is particularly interesting because Hellena and Willmore are equal only at this stage of courtship. Once married, Hellena's money becomes Willmore's, and their union will remove her legal rights. As a wife, Hellena would have no rights but those that Willmore granted her. Their equality only exists when she has the power to concede or to refuse. Yet she cannot refuse, for she loves Willmore. Her power is limited only to words and teasing, to manipulation through conversation, and the strength of her imagination. She can forge a personality, a link, and can force Willmore to consider her in certain ways. She can invent costumes to hide behind, but her imaginative steps are always vulnerable to Willmore's recognition of them. Just as he recognizes her and has the potential to ruin her, Hellena must always be wary of Willmore noticing her manipulations and seeing through them. She uses her intellect to direct him without his noticing.