Oroonoko

Introduction

Oroonoko: or, the Royal Slave is a short work of prose fiction by Aphra Behn (1640–1689), published in 1688 by William Canning and reissued with two other fictions later that year. The eponymous hero is an African prince from Coramantien who is tricked into slavery and sold to British colonists in Surinam where he meets the narrator. Behn's text is a first person account of his life, love, rebellion, and execution.

Behn, often cited as the first known professional female writer,[1] was a successful playwright, poet, translator and essayist. She began writing prose fiction in the 1680s, probably in response to the consolidation of theatres that led to a reduced need for new plays.[2] Published less than a year before she died, Oroonoko is sometimes described as one of the earliest English novels. Interest in it has increased since the 1970s, with critics arguing that Behn is the foremother of British women writers, and that Oroonoko is a crucial text in the history of the novel.[3]

The novel's success was jumpstarted by a popular 1695 theatrical adaptation which ran regularly on the British stage throughout the first half of the 1700s, and in America later in the century.


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