Student Question

Explain how The Rover fits into the genre of restoration comedy.

Quick answer:

The Rover is a representative of Restoration Comedy, a genre that emerged during the Restoration of Charles II to the English throne and typically features light-hearted, satirical content. The play's first half is characterized by farcical scenarios for comedic effect, such as Lucetta's deception of Blunt. However, the second half takes on a darker tone, including an attempted rape scene. Unusually for its time, The Rover also adopts a progressive view on gender roles and female sexuality.

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The Restoration of Charles II to the English throne occurred in 1660 and with it, a new sub-genre of theatre began: Restoration Comedy. Restoration comedies were often bawdy (see William Wycherley's The Country Wife) and generally light in tone. The rise in popularity of such works is likely due to the merry attitude of Charles II as well as the general fatigue England felt after its many civil wars. People wanted entertainment that was light-heartened and satirical rather than Shakespearean tragedy.

Largely, The Rover embodies the spirit of Restoration Comedy, especially in its first half. Much of the enjoyment derived from the play comes from farce—that is, the slapstick tomfoolery and hijinks that the characters get themselves into. Take for instance, Lucetta's deception of the doltish Blunt which leaves him naked and without money. This scene is played purely for laugh as a likable character is able to fool someone who is unlikable.

However, despite its general adherence to the standards of Renaissance comedy, The Rover takes on a much darker tone in its second half: Lucetta's trick angers Blunt and he attempts to rape her. Though the rape never comes to fruition, it is still disturbing, especially to contemporary audiences.

The Rover is also unusual in that it takes a rather progressive stance on gender roles and female sexuality. For example, Angellica Bianca—whose initials mirror those of Aphra Behn, the play's author—despite being a prostitute, is perhaps the most morally conscious person in play.

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