It is nighttime, and Florinda has managed to escape the watchful eyes of Callis and her brother, Pedro. She uses the key to unlock the garden door and waits therein for Belvile with a box of jewels. A drunk, Willmore, suddenly arrives, and tries to get Florinda to sleep with him. He grabs her, and she strongly objects, threatening to cry rape. He offers her some money, and again she refuses, in disgust. Belvile and Frederick arrive and just as Florinda is forced to scream out murder to protect herself against Willmore. Belvile and Frederick run to her defense, and Willmore draws on his friends before he recognizes them. Florinda instructs Belvile to hide by her chamber window later so that she can give him further instruction. Pedro’s party arrives in response to Florinda’s cry for help and proceeds to fight the intruders, while Stephano checks on Florinda. Stephano reports back to Pedro that Florinda is safe and asleep in her chamber; the disturbance is chalked up to wild masquerading.
This scene presents Willmore in an unfavorable light; as a drunk and unruly character who attempts to rape Florinda, Willmore’s womanizing is taken to a new level—one to which the reader or viewer has not yet been exposed. In prior scenes, his playboy character might have been unbecoming, but it was never malicious. In this scene, however, we see a man capable of dangerously violent behavior. As the scene unfolds, Willmore loses any standing that he might have had as a likable character. His behavior is wild and predatory, and inspires an image reminiscent of a duped Blunt in the previous scene: like Blunt, Willmore becomes a beast-like character. Consider the way in which both Florinda and Belvile describe Willmore in this scene: Florinda calls him a “filthy beast,” and in the following scene Belvile calls him a “beast,” “brute,” and “filthy swine” (69). This is not simply random derogatory language; there is an underlying theme that carries over from the description of Blunt in the previous scene, and which continues in later scenes as both men are described at their lowest points. One might be led to conclude that equating Blunt to a beast—or at least suggesting that he is capable of acting like an animal—is Behn’s method of attributing this undesirable characteristic to the English countrymen and parliamentarians that his character may be understood to represent. However, in presenting Willmore, a supposed cavalier or loyalist, as an individual also capable of engaging in brutish behavior, Behn also extends this image to a group of she is supposedly a member of (i.e. loyalists). Perhaps, then, it might be helpful to consider this criticism as directed at men. Aphra tackles many issues that relate to female repression in this play (and others), particularly as exerted by society and the men in their lives. As she represents men on both sides of a political battle as capable of cruelly inhuman acts, she forces the reader or viewer to consider underlying characteristics—beyond political affiliation or philosophical beliefs—that these characters might have in common. The most glaring of these characteristics is their gender. The conclusion that we may thus draw from such a representation is that men, despite differences in title and beliefs, are united in their capacity to commit savage violence against women. Of course, there are other male characters in the play that do not commit such reprehensible acts against the female characters, but it is not unreasonable to imagine that they may do so, if accordingly incensed.
If we turn our attention to the female characters in this scene, we are again presented with their limitations in life relative to, and in many cases imposed by, men. Consider, for example, the secretive plan that Florinda must orchestrate in order to meet up with Belvile: she must sneak out of her room after dark and meet with the colonel in the privacy of an empty, gated garden. Willmore’s drunk entrance into the garden, on the other hand, is riotous and unrestrained. Consider also, in addition to character behavior, the space within which the characters operate or function throughout the play. In this scene, Florinda is restricted by the boundaries of designated space, a physical constraint that is symbolic of her, as well as other female characters’, personal restriction in society. Throughout the play, she often interacts with her lover, Belvile, from a restrictive, zoned-off space; consider how she speaks to him from her window and meets with him in the gated garden. As scholar Derek Hughes points out in his essay “Restoration Theatre,” she also spends time locked into Blunt’s chamber, and it is from these sorts of confined spaces that she often finds herself in danger. Hughes suggests that boundaries established by doors and gates enclose spaces that, for women, are “great danger,” whereas these very same doors and spaces are easily dominated and assaulted by men (Hughes, 39).