Oroonoko as Royalist Allegory College

Aphra Behn was born in the midst of the English Civil War and by the time of her death in 1689, she had seen Charles I executed by his own parliament, the overthrow and restoration of the monarchy with Charles II, and finally the deposition and replacing of James II on religious grounds. The only cultural context that Behn ever knew was one marked by major cultural and political turmoil which pitted the Royalist conservatives (Tories) against the Parliamentarian liberals (Whigs). In such a political climate, it is only natural that the artistic and literary output of this time period is marked by a sense of agitation about the English state of affairs, and Behn's 1688 novella Oroonoko is a blatant example of this. In summary, Oroonoko recounts the tale of an idealized and highly romanticized African prince who is sold into slavery by his grandfather (the king) and is taken to the Dutch colony of Suriname by way of the Middle Passage, where he eventually leads a slave revolt, performs a mercy killing upon his wife, and is eventually executed. Operating as a reactionary response to the political turmoil of this time, Oroonoko is an allegorical narrative that asserts the divine right and honor of kings, a sentiment which echoes...

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