Courtship of Marriage Depicted in Aphra Behn's "The Rover" and "Oroonoko".

Essay by sLvRk155es November 2005

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Courtship and marriage has been one of the themes used in Aphra Behn's "The Rover" and "Oroonoko". Not only is it emphasized in the plots, but also in the written characters as well. In "The Rover", Aphra Behn criticizes the idea of arranged marriages which is not stereotypical of women, who were supposed to be longing for marriage proposals from any man of high status. She also depicts romance through prostitution, virginity while giving her female characters a louder voice. In "Oroonoko" on the other hand, is known to be a heroic romance. Oroonoko and Imoinda's relationship is portrayed to be the "perfect" marriage with honesty, loyalty and virtue. Although written by the same author, these two works differ in the views on courtship and marriage.

In "The Rover", the main female characters, Hellena and Florinda are both yearning for more than they are offered.

Hellena on one hand is being forced into a nunnery while Florinda is being forced to marry. Angelica however, is portrayed as the courtesan or prostitute. Aphra Behn portrays the female characters with a greater sense of interiority, wit and eloquence. Hellena often stands up for herself against the male characters while showing courage and wit. This is portrayed for example, when she is defending her sister as she firmly states to her brother, "Is't not enough you make a nun of me, but you must cast my sister away too, exposing her to a worse confinement than a religious life?" Although Florinda is Hellena's sister, she does not possess Hellena's typical masculine qualities, she is a stereotypical female. They are both young women from a family of high status who are virgins which is the only boundary they possess from being classified as a lady instead of "the whore".