The Willing Mistress, By Aphra Behn

930 words - 4 pages

Aphra Behn shattered walls for sexual freedom of women in literature in the seventeenth century. She was called the first professional woman writer in English. Many of her works all have strong female roles holding sexual power. In Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, she states, “All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn, which is, most scandalously but rather appropriately, in Westminster Abbey, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds.” She was one of the first female authors to speak candidly about the sexual passion felt by women, which was deemed ill-suited in her time. Aphra Behn creates an atmosphere where the woman is liberated, and can exhibit their sexuality very passionately.
The title “The Willing Mistress” instantly suggests the action taken by the female protagonist. She has little or no sexual inhibitions, and is a full participant in the tryst. The title also alludes that the woman may be unmarried, or betrothed to another man. This poem describes how the female speaker becomes aroused by the excellent courtship of her lover; to such an extent that she is open to engage in a passion exchange. She explains this by saying, “Which made me willing to receive / That which I dare not name" (Lines 15-16). Behn allows the character to embrace her sexual passion which was forbidden by social standards. Further, she can be said to assume the position of a man, resulting in role-reversals. Albeit the position of sexual power is normally held by the man both in literature and in reality, she takes control of her sexual pleasure, and boldly assumes charge of her desires.
Aphra Behn uses imagery to give the reader a vivid depiction of the forbidden scene playing out between the lovers. One gets a visual image of them going into a hidden meadow, much like what we would consider a ‘lovers lane’ in the 21st century, “Amyntas led me to a grove / Where all the trees did shade us” (1-2). Behn paints a picture of forbidden love between the lovers, “The sun itself, though it had strove / It could not have betrayed us” (3-4). The couple insists on being concealed; which indeed confirms the interpretation of an illicit affair. Despite the protagonist becoming sexually liberated, she displays discretion in the choice for the private meeting with Amyntas, “The place secured form human eyes / No other fear allows” (5-6). The speaker refers to being seen as the only thing that can perhaps cause her to be bridled.
The speaker says, “A thousand amorous tricks, to pass / The heat of all the day” (11-12), giving the reader the image of intense coquetting and foreplay. The man in the poem no longer has to...

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