Analysis Of The Rover

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The Rover: A Critical Look at Behn’s use of Comedy When one pictures the literary and theatrical world of 17th century England, it is hard to believe that a woman as extraordinary and seditious as Aphra Behn was able to write and publish such revolutionary plays at the capacity she achieved. Having already seen six of her plays produced for stage, she was something of an “anomalous figure” in the theatrical community (Behn 14). However, the first known edition of her Restoration comedy “The Rover” was published anonymously with reference to the author as male in the prologue. One can speculate that due to the bawdy nature of “The Rover” Behn felt it was safer to publish anonymously considering the themes explored in the play. Anne Russell…show more content…
However, even as times changed and women were able to take to the stage the “fascination with crossdressing was so deeply ingrained in pre-Restoration theatrical practice, that it resurfaced in what is known as the ‘breeches part.’” (Behn 19) Referring to the breeches worn by men at the time, a “breeches part” was often added to plays with no real significance to the plot, usually to titillate the audience by having an actress show off a little more skin than what was typical of the time. Conversely, Behn’s use of crossdressing in “The Rover” is an interesting satirical plot device, perhaps used to prove that “women could share the same libertine philosophy with men and experience its liberating effects, in much the same way as she was able to compete on relatively equal terms with the best male playwrights of her time” (Behn 19). Hellena’s use of crossdressing is a radical act, one that challenges strict gender norms of that period, while remaining palatable to the audience. Through skillful comedic writing, Behn is able to create a scene that is both a tense and dramatic confrontation between Wilmore and Angellica, and a light-hearted comical dialogue where Hellena diffuses the situation by confessing her love for Wilmore in disguise. Hellena’s use of disguise is especially interesting when contrasted to Florinda’s…show more content…
Hellena entirely disrupts societal norms of women of her time period, she is an inspirational and empowering character with a charming wit and bold perspective. Behn’s use of Hellena to explore radical notions of their era such as women taking back their independence, women taking charge of their sexuality, and women exploring gender roles and the effect of their clothing is an moving tale. Through skillful use of comedy, Behn is able to weave a story rich in crowd-pleasing delights and protofeminist discourse

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