Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Rover: A Classic Play

Oroonoko, The Rover
and Other Works
The Rover
Aphra Behn

Aphra Behn was quite the interesting individual. She was a spy for the Charles II, but when he wouldn't pay her, she turned to writing to make a living. One of her best known works is the play The Rover. The play is set in Carnival time in  Naples, Italy, in the mid 1600's.

The plot is pretty simple. Guys and gals were masks, there's flirtation and confusion, and perhaps some falling in love. Simple, see?

I chose to read The Rover for the 2012 Back to the Classics Challenge for the "Classic Play" category. I'm really glad for the push to read this, as I'm not someone who reads a lot of dramatic works. I think the key to my enjoyment here was that I just read slowly and tried to "see" the play being acted out in my mind's eye.

I say "enjoyment" because I did enjoy this, but I'm not raving over it. Here are some pros and cons (minor spoilers ahead):

The Stuff I Didn't Like So Much:

Rape-y dudes:
"I begin to suspect something; and 'twould anger us vilely to be trussed up for a rape upon a maid of quality, when we only believe we ruffle a harlot." 
Eww. Especially when they're "rewarded" in the end. Yes, I know the attitudes are largely a reflection of the times. I don't care.

I wish there was a bit more going on than just a bunch of people running around in masks, getting confused about who everyone else was and trying to sleep with one another. This is probably an unfair criticism, because for what it was it was a fun read. The silly plot does make it approachable, even when it is difficult to keep all the characters straight.

The Stuff I Liked:

It opens with women alone on stage! And one of them, supposedly destined to spend the rest of her life in a nunnery, is wanting to find someone to get it on with (did I mention I like rebellious women?)

It's funny! Even though this is an old play, it's easy to pick up on the witty dialogue.

Want more like this? Try:
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream, William Shakespeare. It's got that "magical" quality, the idea that women's choices are limited to a suitable marriage or life as a nun.
  • People of the Book, Geraldine Brooks. One of the sections deals with Venice in the 1600s, during Carnival time. Very cool picture of that time and place.
  • The Importance of Being Ernest, Oscar Wilde. Another fun, funny, approachable play that everyone should read. 

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