The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Set in Naples during the annual carnival, Part I of The Rover begins with a conversation between two sisters. Hellena’s family plans for her to become a nun, but she is clearly more interested in men than in God. Her sister, Florinda, is in love with the English colonel Belvile, a cavalier, who saved her life during the Siege of Pamplona. Her brother, however, wants her to marry the wealthy Don Antonio, while her father wants her to marry the ancient Don Vincentio. Defying their brother, the two unhappy sisters, disguised, attend the carnival, where they encounter three Englishmen: Belvile, Willmore, and Blunt. Hellena is reunited with Belvile, and Willmore the Rover is immediately attracted to Hellena, who is disguised as a gypsy. Blunt, a foolish character who is paying for the other Englishmen’s trip, falls under the spell of Lucetta, who plans to steal his money.

Both Don Pedro and Don Antonio are attracted to the famous courtesan Angelica Bianca. While the two noblemen fight over her, Willmore seduces Angelica, who reluctantly falls in love with him. Willmore, however, quickly turns his attention back to Hellena, who insists on marriage before pleasure. At Lucetta’s house, Blunt is deceived and robbed before falling through a trapdoor into a sewer. After inadvertently disrupting Florinda and Belvile’s romantic plans, Willmore wounds Don Antonio outside Angelica’s house. Soldiers then seize Belvile, whom they mistake for Willmore....

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Dramatic Devices

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

The Rover plays contain many characteristics of Restoration drama. Like other playwrights, Behn presented engaging protagonists, scintillating dialogue, intrigue, and farce. Lucetta’s trickery, which leaves Blunt naked and filthy in Part I, and Fetherfool’s attempt to disguise himself as a clock in Part II, illustrate the kind of slapstick comedy that is as funny for a modern audience as it was for Behn’s theatergoers. To quicken the pace of her plays and to create a visually stunning performance, Behn took full advantage of movable scenery, which was an innovation in the late seventeenth century. Scenery, painted on large shutters, was quickly moved offstage to reveal new characters and a new location. Thus, in Part I, the action can move, for example, instantly from the street to Blunt’s apartment.

Behn also utilized the intimacy of the proscenium stage, which allowed the actors to perform only a few feet from the audience. Much of the plays’ exposition and comedy are contained within the asides that the characters share with the audience but conceal from one another.

Historical Context

(Drama for Students)

The Restoration
The Restoration refers to the reinstatement of a monarch as the seat of government in England,...

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Literary Style

(Drama for Students)

It is not surprising that, when in 1790 playwright John Kemble revised The Rover to remove its...

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Compare and Contrast

(Drama for Students)

Late Seventeenth Century: After Charles II comes to the throne in the Restoration of 1660, an act of Parliament invites...

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Topics for Further Study

(Drama for Students)

Willmore must return to his ship after a brief holiday spent satiating his physical desires, and Hellena hopes to ‘‘love and be...

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Media Adaptations

(Drama for Students)

A 1986 Royal Shakespeare Company production of The Rover, produced by John Barton and starring Jeremy Irons, takes many liberties with...

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What Do I Read Next?

(Drama for Students)

Aphra Behn's play The Second Part of The Rover (1681), although it lacks the wit and vivacity of the first play, is...

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Bibliography and Further Reading

(Drama for Students)

Behn, Aphra, The Lucky Chance, Methuen, 1984, p. 2.

Diamond, Elin, ‘‘Gestus and the...

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(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Sources for Further Study

Duffy, Maureen. The Passionate Shepherdess: Aphra Behn, 1640-1689. London: Jonathan Cape, 1977.

Gallagher, Catherine. “Who Was That Masked Woman? The Prostitute and the Playwright in the Comedies of Aphra Behn.” In Rereading Aphra Behn: History, Theory, and Criticism, edited by Heidi Hutner. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1993.

Hutner, Heidi. “Revisioning the Female Body: Aphra Behn’s The Rover, Parts I and II.” In Rereading Aphra Behn: History, Theory, and Criticism, edited by Heidi Hutner. Charlottesville: University...

(The entire section is 153 words.)