The Playwrights Database
APHRA BEHN (1640? - 1689)
Aphra Behn (born 1640(?), Harbledown(?), Kent, Eng. died April 16, 1689, London) was an English dramatist, fiction writer and poet who was the first Englishwoman known to earn her living by writing. Her origin remains a mystery, in part because Behn may have deliberately obscured her early life. One tradition identifies Behn as the child known only as Ayfara or Aphra who traveled in the 1650s with a couple named Amis to Suriname, which was then an English possession. She was more likely the daughter of a barber, Bartholomew Johnson, who may or may not have sailed with her and the rest of her family to Suriname in 1663. She returned to England in 1664 and married a merchant named Behn; he died (or the couple separated) soon after. Her wit and talent having brought her into high esteem, she was employed by King Charles II in secret service in the Netherlands in 1666. Unrewarded and briefly imprisoned for debt, she began to write to support herself.
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below is a list of Aphra Behn's plays - click on a Play Title for more information
The Rover follows the escapades of a band of banished English cavaliers as they enjoy themselves at a carnival in Naples. The story strings together multiple plotlines revolving around the amorous adventures of these Englishmen, who pursue a pair of noble Spanish sisters, as well as a mistress and common prostitute. The titular character is a raffish naval captain, Willmore. He falls in love with a wealthy noble Spanish woman named Hellena, who is determined to experience love before her brother, Pedro, sends her to a convent. Hellena falls in love with Willmore, but difficulties arise when a famous courtesan, Angellica Bianca, also falls in love with Willmore. As this plot unravels, Hellena's older sister, Florinda, attempts to avoid an unappealing arranged marriage to her brother's best friend, and devises a plan to marry her true love, Colonel Belvile. Finally, the third major plot of the play concerns English countryman Blunt, a naive and vengeful man who becomes convinced that a girl, Lucetta, has fallen in love with him. When she turns out to be a prostitute and thief, he is humiliated and attempts to rape Florinda as revenge against all women for the pain and damage that Lucetta has caused him. In the end, Florinda and Belvile are married, and Hellena and Willmore commit to marry one another.
The Rover, alternatively known as 'The Banish't Cavaliers', is the most frequently read and performed of Aphra Behn's plays (Burke, 118). First performed by the Duke's Company at the Dorset Garden Theatre in 1677, the play was initially published anonymously. Only in the prologue of the third edition did Behn finally take credit for the play. It is believed that it took her this long to claim authorship because she was afraid of potential plagiarism charges, as the play closely resembles Thomas Killigrew's 'Thomaso.'
Duke's Company at the Dorset Garden Theatre
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