Thursday, September 8, 2011
Aphra Behn.... Who?
The plot is full of tricks, masks, liasons, fights, and love. The men battle among themselves over the women, and the women deceive the men in a number of different ways. She gives us a traditional pair of admirable lovers - Florinda and Belvile - as well as some stranger couples. But the best part of the play is undoubtedly the witty dialogue. I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised by just how clever Behn is. Hellena, the destined nun, is my favorite character, for I think she is easily the smartest. But even Angellica is fascinating, and Behn adds some dignity to prostitution. I started reading her work out of a sense of duty, but I found myself cracking up and falling in love with her style. Allow me to share a small sampling of my favorite quotes from The Rover:
"Marriage is as certain a bane to love as lending money to friendship." - Willmore
After forcing Willmore to make a promise she knows he won't keep, "Now what a wicked creature am I, to damn a proper fellow!" - Hellena
"[Men] have generally so kind an opinion of themselves, that a woman with any wit may flatter 'em into any sort of fool she pleases." - Lucetta
I urge you all - men and women alike - to add Aphra Behn to your bookshelves. She is funny, bawdy, and immensely significant. And as if she wasn't already cool enough, history indicates that Behn also acted as a spy for the English government before she began her career as a playwright to pull herself out of debt. Convinced yet? :)