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The Rover [Jul. 9th, 2004|10:34 am]
Tony Grist

craftyailz is doing an Open University course in Eng Lit and I'm reading the texts too so we can discuss them.

So- Aphra Behn's The Rover (1677): First thought was- this is a play that's been fished out of the reject pile because it was written by a woman- and we're desperate to canonize women writers- but, having slept on it, I'm feeling more charitable. There's an energy here. Behn's in love with male freedom and wants to be a rake- just like her gorgeous bisexual pal, Lord Rochester. It dramatizes a particular moment in British history- when the British were, ever so briefly, the sexiest people in Europe.

There's this guy, Wilmore, and he's gorgeous and witty and randy as hell, and all the women fall for him. He's so gorgeous that even the high-priced courtesan pays him to sleep with her- but as soon as he's left her bed, he's back on the streets propositioning the first masked reveller who crosses his path. This masked reveller happens to be a chick called Helena- who's gorgeous, witty and randy as hell and looking for a chance to out-rake the men. It's not a good play. The plotting is terrible. But it's a refreshing reminder that we weren't always the nation of twitching net curtains and the Carry-on films.

And it is intriguing that a woman should have written it. I'm not sure a man would have been quite so indulgent and forgiving. Everyone loves Wilmore, but Wilmore isn't just Blokey Bloke, the bloke- he's a rapist and serial perjurer. He assaults some other chap's girlfriend and after a bit of scrapping the reaction is, "well, it was just Wilmore, what can you expect? Guy's mad for it."

Compare Behn with Rochester- the Restoration super-rake. Rochester lived Wilmore, but Rochester doesn't have Wilmore's joyous amorality. Rochester is consumed with self-disgust. He hates sex and he hates women and he hates himself . He's a puritan gone rotten and winds up, not at all surprisingly, as a psalm-singing Born-again Christian.  If Rochester had written this play it would have been filthy and nihilistic.  As it is, it swings (like a pendulum do.) 

Behn moves into the male arena and plays by their rules. They're mad for it; so I'll be madder. The way to deal with a guy like Wilmore isn't to whinge or complain or shop him to the cops but to take him to bed and shag him incapable. That'll learn him!

Not politically correct, but interesting.... 


[User Picture]From: besideserato
2004-07-10 10:26 am (UTC)
Oh my god, I don't think I have ever laughed so hard reading LiveJournal in my life. You are the light of my night, you know that?

You know, I was very much into Ms. Behn when I was in Lit because, yes, she was a woman, and a smart one at that and because she was what I considered a raging and rabid feminist.

And then it struck me that of the works that I had read half was about either playing man and the other about letting things go with a "boys will be boys" attitude. She offers some interesting bits in terms of erotica, but as far as revolutionizing the world of feminine literature, eh, skip to the French.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-07-10 11:42 am (UTC)
Behn was a wonderful woman but the Rover is a bad play. I wonder what her novel Oronooko is like. It sounds interesting.
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