The Rover By Aphra Behn Essay

1516 words - 6 pages

In The Rover by Aphra Behn the reader is shown how all a woman could do during the 1600’s in Europe was sell herself through marriage or prostitution through the characters Hellena and Angellica. Both women have different views on love, sex, and marriage. Hellena is a woman who does not want to be controlled by men. It has been determined by her father and brother that she will join a nunnery, which she rejects. Hellena doesn’t want her desires to be controlled and feels she has the right to love if she chooses and who she can love. Hellena can be seen as a modern day free spirit, and Behn uses this as a way to resist the double standard applied to woman and the idealization of what a “proper” woman is. Hellena falls for a man, Willmore, while attending Carnival and it is her wit in the dialogue with Willmore that the reader sees that Hellena is not foolish in knowing how men view and treat their women. Hellena knows that Willmore will not be faithful and uses her virginity as a way for him to marry her because that is her only way of not going into nunnery as she says, “What shall I get? A cradle full of noise and mischief, with a pack of repentance at my back” (pg 590). Hellena takes control of her situation that marriage is a necessity for women and she will not act as a “prostitute” where she will sleep with a man without a marital commitment. Angellica is a foil character to Hellena. While Hellena wants marriage, Angellica vows "nothing but gold shall charm my heart” (pg 564) meaning she has chosen a life of prostitution. It is not until she too falls in love with Willmore that she tries to believe that her lower status won’t matter and his love for her can be above that. However, because she lives a life of prostitution and the stigma that goes along with it romantic love is not an option for her and Willmore uses Angellica for her physical appearance then leaves her to be with Hellena because of her higher status and wealth. Angellica chooses prostitution over love because she believes “inconstancy’s the sin of all mankind, therefore I’m resolved that nothing but gold shall charm my heart.” Both women believe men cannot be faithful with their love and actions, but Hellena rebels and uses her wit to take control of the identity given to her while Angellica suppresses her desires and falls into the identity given to her. Both women are similar in that they do hold themselves and hold sex at a high value, Hellena does by knowing her worth and only giving sex for marriage, while Angellica charges a price a to have sex with her because she knows the worth of her beauty.
The carnival setting of the play allows Behn to underscore her theme that marriage in the patriarchal society of the eighteenth century is not that different from prostitution. The Carnival acts as a second world the female character’s can escape too from the world they live in where marriage is the only option for women. The carnival allows the female characters to...

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