Aphra Behn - The Rover
Aphra Behn’s “The Rover” is an interesting and humorous play that has a major focus on the female characters. A number of female characters have prominent roles and are portrayed as strong and independent. In the first act, Hellena can be regarded as an individual who strives for what she wants. She is able to convince Florinda to go to a Masquerade. Throughout the play her character continues to develop with clear motives and personal goals. For example, Hellena pursues Willmore. This is a quality that is usually attributed to a man. The man is typically seen as the pursuer. By the end of the play, Hellena is able to convince Willmore to marry her despite his initial hesitation. This again shows strength and determination in this female character. Angellica is another female character who initially and innocently accepts what she is told but after being betrayed, she takes initiative and seeks revenge on Willmore. She wants to keep a close eye on Willmore and in Act III Scence 1 she instructs Sebastian to follow the woman she saw with Willmore. Later, in Act V Scene 1 she comes close to killing him for being unfaithful. This demonstrates that Angellica is not content simply with being a victim but instead stands up for herself by confronting Willmore in a violent manner. Lucetta also is a female who demonstrates independence and wit. In Act III Scene 2 she is able to trick Blunt into believing that she will have sexual relations with him but instead robs him and leaves him without the majority of his clothes.
Throughout the play it is evident that not all the females are victims. In Act III Scene V, Florinda is almost forced by Willmore to engage in sexual relations with him against her will but it does not happen because Belvile and Frederick arrive in time to stop Willmore. Another time Blunt and Frederick almost sexually abuse Florida because they thought that she was a harlot but they decide to wait for Belvile when they discover that she knows him and offers Blunt a ring. The play had many humorous moments especially when the men had their plans interrupted or frustrated.
The play outlined a general standard for treatment of women by men. If a woman was perceived to have character or position, she was treated with respect and dignity. However, if a woman was perceived as less respectable or a harlot, the men felt they were free to treat her any way they wanted. In Act V, it is astonishing to see how quickly Frederick and Blunt ask Florinda forgiveness for their actions when they discovered she is Bevile’s betrothed.