The Rover, By Aphra Behn Essay

The Rover, By Aphra Behn Essay

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In Aphra Behn’s “The Rover”, between the categories of virgin and whore lies a void rather than a spectrum. The three leading ladies of the play Hellena, Florinda and Angellica most certainly fall into these categories; Hellena and Florinda being virginal ladies of quality and Angellica being a famous courtesan. These three women attempt to challenge these roles throughout the play. Aphra Behn uses the domination of the men over the women, the objectification of the women and the double standards that exist between men and women to illustrate the impossibility of taking one’s sexuality into one’s own hands, and challenging the assigned roles of the patriarchal society for the female characters in the play. The male characters in “The Rover” exert control over the female characters destinies, and thus their sexuality. At the opening of the play sisters Hellena and Florinda have their destinies laid out for them by their father and their brother Pedro, the latter of whom is essential to driving the conflict in the play. Hellena is destined to become a nun, but confides in her sister that she has no intentions of becoming one, saying “Dost thou think I’le ever be a nun? Or at least until I’m so old I’m fit for nothing else? Faith no sister.” (876) Hellena tells Florinda that she wishes “to love, and to be belov’d” (898) meaning that she wants to fall in love and be desired, which of course is forbidden if she wishes to become a nun, because she must remain chaste. Florinda is destined to be a wife. Her father wishes for her to marry “Rich Old Don Vincentio” (876) a fate Hellena claims is “a worse confinement than a Religious life” (877) Florinda herself is also greatly opposed to this marriage and declares “I understand better wh...


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...I get? A cradle full of noise and mischief with a pack of repentance at my back?” (938) Hellena risks pregnancy and the loss of her reputation and her status by sleeping with Willmore out of wedlock, whereas he has nothing to lose. The play ends in the social norm, despite all of the attempts of the women in the play to defy it. Florinda and Hellena the ladies of quality, do succeed in getting what they desire, Hellena does not have to be a nun and Florinda gets to marry Belville. However they still end up as wives, one of the aforementioned gender roles. Angellica is the only female character who does not get a happy ending however her fate also complies with these gender roles. The fact that the play ends with the women still inhabiting traditional roles illustrates that these women can never truly break free from the prescribed roles the patriarchy assigns them.

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