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. The wounded Don Antonio asks Belvile to fight Don Pedro in his place. The next morning, Belvile, disguised as Antonio, defeats Don Pedro and wins the hand of Florinda. Before the marriage can take place, however, Willmore reveals Belvile’s true identity, causing Don Pedro to flee with Florinda. Disguised as a man, Hellena pursues Willmore, while Angelica, angry at the Rover’s betrayal, seeks revenge.
Florinda escapes from her brother’s house but is almost raped by Blunt and then by her brother, neither of whom knows her real identity. Once Belvile and Florinda finally marry, Angelica threatens to shoot Willmore but is thwarted by Don Antonio. Realizing that Hellena is exceedingly wealthy, Willmore agrees to marry her.
Part II takes place in Madrid. Willmore and Beaumond are attracted to the courtesan La Nuche, who loves Willmore in spite of his poverty. Shift and Hunt, also exiled cavaliers, plan to marry two rich, but deformed, Mexican sisters. The sisters—one a giant, the other a dwarf—hope to be changed to normal proportions by a mountebank. Fetherfool and Blunt also hope to marry the women for their money. Ariadne, who is supposed to marry her cousin Beaumond, falls in love with Willmore, who disguises himself as the mountebank in hopes of swindling the two deformed sisters. Later that night, Willmore, La Nuche, Beaumond, and Ariadne meet in a garden, where the darkness causes great confusion. Not knowing each other’s identity, Willmore and Beaumond fight. Ariadne discovers Beaumond’s indifference toward her and continues her pursuit of Willmore despite his refusal to marry.
Meanwhile, in a darkened bedroom, Don Carlo and Fetherfool mistake each other for La Nuche. Hoping to escape Don Carlo’s anger, Fetherfool climbs out a window and is left naked in the street. Ariadne, fooled by Beaumond, is led to the mountebank’s home, where Fetherfool steals a pearl necklace from the Mexican giant while Blunt pursues the bawdy Petronella, who has stolen a casket of jewels from La Nuche. In the end, Shift and Hunt marry the Mexican giant and dwarf, Beaumond and Ariadne agree to marry, and Willmore seeks “Love and Gallantry” with La Nuche.
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...
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