The Rover plays are among the most widely read of Behn’s large body of literary works. Part I was tremendously successful during the seventeenth century and was frequently revived throughout the eighteenth century. Behn’s artistry becomes particularly apparent when her plays are viewed in comparison with their source, Thomas Killigrew’s long closet drama Thomas: Or, The Wanderer (wr. 1654, pb. 1664). Not only did Behn shorten Killigrew’s drama, which would never have been successful onstage, but she also changed its tone. Killigrew’s humor depends upon a vulgarity that is entirely absent from Behn’s plays. Behn eliminated Killigrew’s misogyny and transformed his female caricatures into complex, fully developed characters.
Equally important, Behn used this drama to explore ideas related to gender and culture that are found throughout her works. Depicting the way in which society inhibits and ultimately perverts desire, The Rover shares much with Behn’s poem...
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