The Rover

The Rover Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Do the male or female characters control the happenings in The Rover? Make an argument as to whether the women or men exhibit more agency, drawing on language as well as stage direction.

    Look closely at the characters of Hellena, Florinda, and Lucetta in particular, we can see that these women play an especially large role in advancing the plot of The Rover, as they both outwit and manipulate their male counterparts. Consider how Hellena disobeys her father’s command that she become a nun and gets an initially reluctant Willmore to agree to marry her; recall also how Florinda disobeys her father’s wishes to have her marry Don Vincentio and at once manages to outwit her brother in order to marry Belvile; or consider how Lucetta lures Blunt with the promise of sex, and then cheats him out of all of his possessions. The men in this play might be seen as pawns for the confident and conniving women who know both what they want and how to get it. Blunt and Willmore in particular seem nearly powerless to the women and their feminine wiles; Blunt is completely blind to Lucetta’s wicked plan, as is Willmore unaware of Hellena’s power to completely change his philandering nature and transform him from a commitment averse sexual predator to a abiding prospective husband. For Belvile’s part, he does very little to achieve his ultimate status as husband of Florinda; again, it is the woman who does the majority of the scheming to achieve the end-goal.

  2. 2

    Which female character best represents the playwright, Aphra Behn? Consider the characteristics and beliefs of each female character, and make an argument that relates these distinctive attributes to what you know about Behn.

    Aphra Behn was a woman ahead of her time; as the first published female author, she broke the mold not only in her professional accomplishments, but also in her daily life. She was a well-traveled woman, spending time in Surinam with her family, and in Antwerp as a spy for Charles II. Behn is also purported to have had an on-and-off-again relationship with an English expatriate and spy. Her path is one characterized by inconstancy, and it was one that could only have been undertaken by a brave and confident individual. In The Rover, it is Hellena who best demonstrates confidence and bravery in her endeavors to alter her destiny. Like Aphra, Helena is a confident woman and persuasive leader, not afraid to draw attention to the hypocrisy of religion, and drawn strongly to the freedom of libertinism. She also shares with Aphra a desire to explore and live dangerously.

  3. 3

    Does the use of different terminology to describe prostitutes in the play have an effect on how a given character is perceived, or how the profession as a whole is perceived? Explain.

    In The Rover, prostitutes are alternatively referred to as “courtesan” and “whore.” The latter of these terms is stigmatizing, whereas the former lends the profession a somewhat glamorizing tone. Language thus functions in this situation to draw a distinction between the “upper class” and “lower class” prostitutes, and with this distinction comes a variance both in respect and agency. Lucetta, for example, is referred to as a “whore”—which invites the audience or reader to imagine her as a rougher character, one who is perhaps more coarse and conniving. Her actions correspond to this image, as her actions in the play are cold, cruel, and viciously deceptive. Angelllica, on the other hand, is alternatively referred to as “mistress” and “courtesan”—terms that have a softer and more dignified feel to them. Her actions are correspondingly more considerate and courtly.

  4. 4

    Moretta claims that love is the “disease” of the female sex, whereas Willmore claims that “virtue“ is the true infirmity in women. (84) With whom do you agree and why? Draw from the text to support your answer.

    Willmore is speaking to Angellica when he exclaims, “Virtue is but an infirmity in woman, a disease that renders even the handsome ungrateful…” (84, l.177-178) Angellica has just called his “mistress” (not prostitute, in this sense)—that is to say, Hellena—“virtuous.” If we take this to mean that Hellena is a person of moral excellence, then we may see Willmore’s objection. The infirmity lays not in actually being “virtuous,” but rather in thinking that one is “virtuous,” when one is not. You might also note that Willmore is not simply commenting on Hellena here, but also on a larger theme at play within the story—the notion that prostitution, which is generally considered a base or sinful trade, can be stratified into different degrees or levels of virtue (i.e. a whore is somehow less virtuous than a courtesan).

  5. 5

    Angellica considers the financial negotiations which one makes before marrying a prospective bride the same as prostitution. Do you agree?

    Angellica makes a good point; marriage and prostitution are both relationships that are customarily contingent, to varying degrees, upon financial considerations. They are of course not entirely the same, but it would seem hypocritical to denounce one and participate in the other. The point of this statement is to acknowledge that marriage can be just as amoral as prostitution if one considers placing a monetary value on love the reason behind prostitution’s amorality.

  6. 6

    Why is Hellena so intent on marrying Willmore, and what might this say about her character?

    Hellena does not seem the type to desire marriage; she is drawn to inconstancy, and resents being instructed or ordered around by men. She is, as Blunt calls her, “a rover”—just like Willmore. It is clear that she values her freedom and independence, and it thus comes somewhat as a surprise when she insists that Willmore marry her. The argument might be made that, although Hellena values her freedom and desires to break free from the customs that tie her to her father and brother, she necessitates nonetheless some degree of stability. She is able to distance herself from the control of her dad and brother and in the process gain some breathing room; marriage to another man allows her to regain some stability.

  7. 7

    Choose one of the following concepts and illustrate how and why Behn treats it throughout “The Rover”: friendship; fortune; disguise; honor; revenge.

    Friendship: Friends present more as a problem than a source of support; consider Blunt’s misfortunes and Willmore’s drunken mistreatment of Florinda. Belvile must deal with both of these friends who not only embarrass the colonel, but also cause him a great deal of stress and worry. Consider how both Blunt and Willmore threaten and attack Belvile’s love, Florinda. Rather than help him achieve his goal of being with Florinda, Belvile’s friends seem rather to present as added obstacles to achieving this goal. Similarly, the supposed friendship between Don Pedro and Don Antonio is stressed throughout the play; rather than help Don Pedro with his plans to marry his sister, Don Antonio repeatedly causes problems for Pedro.

  8. 8

    Choose one of the following concepts and illustrate how and why Behn treats it throughout “The Rover”: friendship; fortune; disguise; honor; revenge.

    Fortune: Wealth—or lack thereof—plays an undoubtedly central role in “The Rover.” Don Pedro and his family are noble descendants of a very wealthy family. The visiting Englishmen, however, are mostly broke, with the exception of Blunt. Whereas the Englishmen seem rather unfazed by their lack of (i.e. loss) wealth, the Spaniards are nearly obsessed with the accumulation of riches. Consider the driving force behind Florinda’s proposed marriage to Don Vincentio, Lucetta’s trick on Blunt, and Angellica’s effort to reel in the highest bidder. Behn reminds us throughout the play that money motivates much of the action, however those who remain untouched by wealth, or who are not driven solely by economic gain, end up happy/satisfied at the end of the play (e.g. Hellena, Florinda, Belvile, Willmore).

  9. 9

    Choose one of the following concepts and illustrate how and why Behn treats it throughout “The Rover”: friendship; fortune; disguise; honor; revenge.

    Disguise: Disguise and deception are central in “The Rover,” as much of the play takes place in a carnival setting, and many of the characters are dressed in masquerade. Dressing up in costume allows characters much more mobility within their social sphere (e.g. Hellena is able to attend the carnival in large part because she can escape notice re her mask). But while the masks that the characters wear may at times be liberating, they also promote dishonesty and deception. This theme of disguise and deception might be best explored with regards to the female characters. How does Hellena in particular appropriate various costumes to manipulate others to obtain what she wants? Throughout the course of the play she assumes both the identity of a gypsy and a man. Explore which of these disguises was more effective.

  10. 10

    Choose one of the following concepts and illustrate how and why Behn treats it throughout “The Rover”: friendship; fortune; disguise; honor; revenge.

    Revenge: There are two instances of revenge in "The Rover"; both plans are stymied before they have a chance to be carried out. The first instance occurs when Blunt plans to seek revenge on the female sex for what Lucetta has done to him, and the second occurs when Angellica hunts down Willmore with a pistol for lying to her. Belvile and company intervene before Blunt has the chance to beat and rape Florinda, and Angellica herself abandons her plans to kill Willmore. What is the point of these feigned attempts to carry out revenge? It may be that Behn is attempting to communicate the folly of revenge by presenting two arguably hyperbolic plots that ultimately serve to present Blunt and Angellica as overly dramatic, flawed characters. Both attempted acts are extreme and rash, and Blunt's is certainly illogical.