Her womanly nature her erotically vulnerable to his "Pow'rful Reason phallic words "Please, and Charm, even while they G Pain" line Is the I-speaker who finds herself from the jubilant throng on a distant shore the sam has not taken the "thriving course," or is she distinct "fond Listner" and corruptible Muse? Thus the Statesman drous Method" 68 and "Art beyond the Wit of M "carries a Commanding Force, like that of Writ Divi has not only "ruin'd" the "great Design" w "adore[s]" 88 but also left her "like a Maid undone" saken on the barren shore. Burnet's formative, r energy is comparable to divine agency in the sen rapist who destroys his victim's reputation might be carrying out providential will, the force of fate.
Like Monmouth, B engendered a political catastrophe that leaves t Oenone-like, ruined, bereft, and miserable Monmouth, Burnet has triumphantly transformed th Still, both Oenone and Behn continue to sing. That Behn regards Burnet's conquest with sk and loathing is clear in these bitter, sarcastic lines Till now, my careless Muse no higher strove T'inlarge her Glory, and extend her Wing; This content downloaded from To do so would be to allow her "self to circulate like bad money, a coin whose worth derives from the imprimatur of the counterfeit sover eign stamped upon it.
Ironically, the rhetorical feebleness that leaves her "like a Maid undone" is the very weakness that prevents her from being completely co-opted. It is this wayward Muse that "stops" Behn "in the thriv ing Course" and turns her into a Cassandra-like figure, "unpity'd far behind" the joyous crowds celebrating the "Mighty Change" that Burnet's phallic implement has brought about: Oh Strange effect of a Seraphick Quill! She responds to Burnet, but also resis a woman, "like a Maid," with nothing left to lose but "Sense and Reason.
Finding herself in that posi the "Great Design" "ruin'd" , the poet reflects power of a "Seraphick Quill" to "change every Not Principle" its "Dictator" directs. Her own poem? The "truth" she imparts as a then, can only register within a negative dialectic, functions aesthetically, as a preferable fiction.
S a major element of the plot of the Roundheads con conversion of Lady Lambert from the wrong politica itual sensibilities to the right, Tory values, a choi confirmed in the aesthetic mode by the obvious p brings her. As ever with Behn, desire is key to he characters ' subj ectivities. Relig This content downloaded from The alleged plot fueled an already rag ing controversy over legal attempts to exclude James from the succession.
The Earl of Shaftesbury led the challenge to iure divino monarchy that Sir Robert Filmer had fiercely defended in Patriarcha. With the memories of the great political, eco nomic, and social transformations wrought during the Civil Wars and the Interregnum government of Oliver Cromwell still vivid in the people's mind, and because the material forces which brought about those transformations had not yet stabi lized into a predictable pattern, what was feared was nothing short of another "Great Rebellion.
On the other hand, Parliamentary and progressive par ties, which coalesced into the Whigs, painted terrifying pic tures of James's future rule and of an England returned to a Catholic absolutism and tyranny that would stifle democracy and trade, subject the populace, and impoverish the nation. For the moment, the Tories appeared to have triumphed over Exclusion and the threat of a new order, but their ascendan cy remained uncertain.
Behn dramatized these anxieties in her brilliantly comic play. The plot, which Behn adapted from John Tatham's Tory farce, The Rump , is fairly simple: important members of the Committee of Safety, the Puritan body that governed England in before the restoration of Charles II, demon strate their ineptitude, avarice, and lechery while its most conniving committeemen, Lambert, the general of the army, and Fleetwood, a self-serving, canting fool who cannot speak without mentioning the "Lard," vie with one another for the crown. The allegory, or, as Behn describes it, "Mirror, of the late wretched Times," casts the Whigs as 'Villains" and "Rogues without Remorse" who hypocritically mouth Puritan platitudes and bribe "Pulpit Knaves that Treason brew" in order to advance their own ends.
The irre charms of Loveless, however, soon convert her from "Roundhead" madness to a Royalist sanity, from dre political power and dominion to a putatively natural, submission within an patriarchalist hierarchy, a sub she gratefully greets once the King's forces conquer and ish" the "wicked City. Although amorous plot portrays submission to Tory rule as a norm inclination common to all women, who cannot "resi superior sexiness of Cavalier men, what we might call t torical plot brings this conclusion about through m force.
The amorous plot confirms an aesthetic val political and spiritual rectitude of absolutist principl the historical plot undermines the pleasures, and po certitudes, that the amorous plot purveys. If Lambert figures the City as a woman fondly overc with masculine charm, the historical plot represen City's conquest by royalist forces as a rape. This sug that we should not read The Roundheads as straightf Tory farce, although critics generally interpret it that In one of its last scenes, the now discredited Puritan Ananias reveals to two low-ranking parliamentarians tha city has been betrayed and "ravish'd, deflow'red.
Lay her Legs open wide World, for every Knave to view her nakedn 5. Are we to assume that, like the major f protagonists of the play, the City has spread "her leg for the Royalist invaders because, as Desbro intimate This content downloaded from We are indeed. But the play permits us to see this military and sexual conquest also as a "monstrous" violence exerted against women, particularly those who have asserted their authority in the public realm.
Does Behn secretly identify with the Roundhead women she overtly rejects? There are three figures associated with the prophet in this play, each of whom claims public power, the right to speak and effect change in the public sphere. Each of them, Behn's "author-figure" in the dedicatory epistle, Lambert, and the widow Cromwell, figure, in some way, woman as public authority, woman as author. I will examine each in turn. Behn explicitly associates herself with a poet-prophet in a polemical, political-religious sense in her dedicatory epis tle to Henry Fitzroy, the Duke of Grafton and second son of Barbara, Lady Castlemaine later Duchess of Cleveland and Charles II.
Writing in the wake of ShadwelPs Whig success, The Lancashire Witches , Behn explains that she expects her explicitly Tory "Play with a Loyal Title" to arouse antagonism as well as fascination because it "expose[s]" cur rent politicians to be the direct offspring of the perpetrators of the uRebellion, Murders, Massacres and Villainies, from 40 upwards. Of course, all of th ment? The aesthetic "honest t she offers "in Edyfying Plays" not only inform the p of "the Sacred Cause" 90 ; they also operate like th matic Duke himself and will therefore persuade her to be "reconciled to Honesty again" She theref its from Grafton, who was "born for Conquest every w aesthetic power that is his chief political weapon: what Phanatick, what peevish Polititian, testy wi Diseases, miscarried Plots, disappointed Revol envious of Power, of Princes, and of Monarchy, a with Zeal for Change and Reformation, could ye far lost to the sense of Pleasure, as not to turn a R Revenge, the Good old Cause, and the patron Plebian sedition with only looking on you.
Her work functions as a Mirror, of the late wretched Times" 61 in which Graf her audiences, will recognize that they are governed, the infinite Mercies of God to this bleeding Nation" by "th of Monarchs," who, "like a skilful Pilate, by the wrec Rich Vessell, learn how to shun the danger of this Threatning, and save the rest from sinking" , 79 Lambert, the hypocritically pious heroine who h to public power on the Puritans' coattails, corresponds ures of female prophets and political agita Interregnum satires in a number of ways.
Although cal analysis suggests that most of the women who pated in sectarian meetings, and preached and p their works were sober, modest, tax-paying women cal tracts from both the right and the left generally p This content downloaded from As Sharon Achinstein observes, charges of impropriety were the means by which writers condemned women's religious and political activities in public, outside the house, and beyond the control of their husbands and ministers The roy alist newsbook Mercurius Elencticus, for example, presents Leveller women who petitioned parliament in the s as "loose Religious Charmers" and "holy sisters" 3.
The Republican Henry Neville satirized women taking on active public roles in religion and politics in a number of tracts depicting fictional "parliaments of women. Printed in the yeere of Women without Grace, , Neville mocks women who appropriated republican rhetoric. He facetiously recalls the "time in England when Men wore the Breeches, and debar'd Women of their Liberty" which obtained until the Ladies-Rampant of the Times, in their last Parliament, knowing themselves to be a part of the free People of this nation, unanimously resolved to assert their own Freedoms; and casting off the intolerable yoake of their Lords and Husbands, have voted themselves the Supreme Authority both at home and abroad, and settled themselves in the posture of a Free-State, as may apeare by their Practices.
His tract recalls a popular ballad from the period depicts sectarian women as power-hungry and loose: For Husbands we shall have none, But Brothers in purity; We will not be Wives And tye up our Lives To Villanous slavery; But couple in love and fear; This content downloaded from Achinstein sees the depiction of women t active public roles as lunatics and wild-eyed "reli charmers" as evidence of the fact that polemicists took women had to say "seriously enough to record it a refute it in terms that sought to eliminate women's p pation in debate" Behn certainly does not seem to take Lady Lamber ously.alezacat.cf
Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko
She introduces the coquette to the audience in cussion between Loveless and Freeman of the "wh I. Loveless's first report after meetin directly corresponds to satires of sectarian women, f describes the "She-Saint" 1. Lambert's madness consists in her pre sumption of power unseemly in a woman, her "raving on Crowns and Kingdoms" 4. She is supposed to accept her subordination to the King as well as to her husband, but treats the "sacred Reliques" of the monarch, the crown and scepter, as "Trophies" to be awarded to her "young and Gay" lover 4.
She puts on airs and assumes public powers to which she has no legitimate right; she looks down This content downloaded from She clearly runs Lambert, directs public policy through him and is, for this reason, a kind of "author" or public authority who shapes popular opinion and state affairs. She becomes "sane" again when she gives up her pretensions to glory and power, rec ognizes her dependency upon Loveless, and withdraws from the public realm 4.
Lambert's alleged mad ness is also represented as a sexual voracity and corruption; her affair with Cromwell, "who first infus'd Politiques into" her 1. If Lambert's sexual appetite leads to insanity, it leads also to the recovery of her senses. According to the official Tory logic of the play, her desire for Loveless, who encour ages her to "leave.
Politicks, and fall to love" 1. The sight of Loveless "betrayfs] all [her] Devotion" and leads her into adultery with the "villainous" royalists.
Janet Todd: Aphra Behn: A secret life - Talk Radio Europe
Lambert's lust annihilates any presumption to the autonomous agency she has enjoyed as a roundhead "queen" a word we can understand in its bawdy and politi cal senses : "I was just on the point of falling," she says to Desbro, who interrupts Loveless's attempted seduction.
As thou say'st, these Heroicks have the strangest Power," she continues, "I wonder our Lord shou'd take away their Swords, and let 'em wear their Eyes" 2. Loveless's charismatic weapons of beauty and charm dissolve Lambert's public agency, delivering her down to domesticity and private obscurity, the lowly position she must occupy in order to be cured.
Yet, if Loveless's charms correspond to the pleasing influence that Grafton possesses and that Behn hopes to wield in her plays, they also resemble the seductive rhetoric that Behn attributes to Burnet's "Pen. It is useful to pause for a moment to set Behn's poetic response to Burnet next to The Roundheads in order to comment on a structural similarity between Behn's self-rep This content downloaded from Both figures themselves responding, as women, to men who repr their political-spiritual opposites; both resist seductio subordination to patriarchal authority.
Behn rectly poses a similar question in her poem to Burnet, from the obverse political point of view. Alt Lambert's political allegiance is diametrically oppo Behn's, she is as conscious of her posterity as the poe wanted to be remembered in the company of Sappho Plants" Like Behn the poet-prophet, Lady Lam exists in a world in which she must work out her amb to assert a public voice in relations with men, with political contingencies cannot be divorced from amo contingencies.
The symbolic order in which both fig must function disposes them to sacrifice public maje the face of masculine potency. Yet, as she presents hers the "Pindaric," Behn reaches for the laurels alone, h firm to her religio-political convictions to the end, though her politically transformed world offers her ne shelter, nor consolation.
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She resists the erotic pu Burnet; Lambert is not so strong. She falls for the pe aptly named Loveless. Another structural similarity between Lambert and prophet-author-figure that Behn assumes, in this case in dedicatory epistle to Grafton, suggests that Behn un sciously, and indirectly, identified with her Roundhe tagonist.
In the letter, the playwright portrays herself potential victim of the kind of violence similar to the p ment exerted by satires of publicly active women by pred the fury of Whig audiences, whom she has unmasked Parliamentarian thugs of old: "? The structural similarity obtains when Lambert is hounded by the London rabble for being a "She-Politician" and "sorceress. Both have employed rhetorical tools to promote social change.
We might also read the author's alleged fear of the rabble in light of her other well-known expressions of frustration with her society's refusal to accord women the same dramatic license it gave to men. In the epistle to Grafton, Behn demonstrates an awareness that she is vul nerable to the same violence with which popular satires pun ished other women who spoke out in public. If Lambert corresponds to satirical figures of prophets in royalist satires, Cromwell much more directly echoes the expressions of female prophet-authors themselves. She tells her daughter, Lady Fleetwood, that Lambert will betray her husband, "as he did thy Brother," 1.
After the faux "Protectress" Lambert realizes that her brief run of majesty has come to an end, she calls Cromwell a "Screech Owl" a bird associated with prophecy and dismisses her "Voice" which grates because it is "ominous. Connections can be drawn between all three prophet figures: Behn's representation of herself in the dedicatory epistle, Lambert and Cromwell.
In an interesting, early scene, Lambert and her openly royalist woman, Gilliflower, regard the widow Cromwell, who has come to confront her husband's whore. Although Cromwell's critique of the This content downloaded from Behn's Cromwell figures Lam present self as a crazy, sectarian woman, who believ utters the truth but is interpreted by her audience a sional and foolish; she figures Lambert's future se has-been.
Nevertheless, Behn's representation o widow, a much kinder portrait than the one fou Tatham's Rump, transcends both Lambert's roundhe Gilliflower's royalist viewpoints. Tatham's Cromwell forms to the conventions of royalist satire? In contrast, makes her strong, intelligent, and dignified. Crom stands as a rational, intellectually autonomous w speaking the truth about current affairs in an effo bring the world in tune with her own understand providence. The conservative public, threatened b and figured by Gilliflower , maligns her as "mad.
She therefore steps beyond, however br the rigid categories of the royalist satire that she is wr permitting an association between her "author-figure royalist prophet and both of these Roundhead women playwright, Lambert, and Cromwell are all vulnerab the patriarchal system that punishes women who ac speak with authority? When Behn regards Lambert looking at Cromwell, t the various discourses of the play, roundhead and roy liberal-radical and absolutist, cross over one another become entangled.
Another instance of this ideological c sion occurs when the committed royalist, Desbro, ut republican slogan: "we stand for Liberty and Property o Sex, and will present it to the Committee of Safety" 5. Of course, Behn's loyalties rarely seem particularl fused, but her identification with the figure of the pro This content downloaded from The result is a sublter mix of viewpoints.
Behn's prophet-self on the "forsaken, barren shore" ironically corresponds to Cromwell's isolation, her lack of a comfortable place to stand, to exist, within the possible governing systems. It is as though she had pre-figured her own future persona as depicted in the ode to Burnet in this portrait of Cromwell. Both figures discover in politico-religious isolation a hope less, yet still fecund, dignity, a rhetorical authority that finds no fit audience. Moreover, the complicated overlapping of Behn's own Virgilian prophet-figure with the lampooned prophetess, Lambert, and the scorned, yet stalwart, widow Cromwell illustrates a fruitful and dramatic interplay of "high" and "low" discourses of prophecy.
In this configuration the playwright is clearly working out her relationship to both traditions and producing her own persona as a woman poet prophet within a contested field. That is, she claims authori al authority in a dynamic relationship with both sectarian progressive and conservative ideologies. Obviously, Behn never imagined herself, even in a secret life, as a Roundhead general, but she drew upon radical Protestant prophetic discourses and practices as cultural resources in order to underscore and defend her public voice.
Moroever, when we look to Behn as an important player in the development of the category of the "modern author," we need to see how she contributed to that emergent entity in a conflicted politico-religious field rather than locating her sole ly within the intellectual confines of absolutism. This writer claimed the authority of the prophet after the fashion of many progressive, visionary women writers, but she also exhibited a characteristically conservative skepticism of language as a stable medium of divine truth.
That is to say, while her work overtly promulgates what Marxist critics This content downloaded from Because n the ideologies of her time openly sanctioned the pol authority of women, Behn could finally only assert h creative agency by opposing all forces that repressed wo voices. Therefore, when we wrestle with the paradox of feminism and absolutism, we would do well to remembe "it is not the office of art to spotlight alternatives, but t by its form alone the course of the world, which perma ly puts a pistol to [wojmen's heads" Adorno Behn translated Fontanelle's l'Histoire des Oracles in ; it was reprinted in I use Foucault's term here in order to demarcate the vexing issue of exactly when the "author" comes into existence.
See also note 8. McDowell also discuss the influence of sectarian women's writing and the devel opment of women's literary authority. Jeff Masten and Catherine Gallagher This content downloaded from Kewes's argument that the modern notion of the author arises through the interplay of both con servative and liberal ideology is more convincing. For a useful discus sion of the notion of authority as developing through the "enduring conflict" of rival ideologies during this period, see Pocock This was a response to Mary Cary's The resurrection of the witnesses and Englands fall from the mystical Babylon Rome.
London, It was wrought and carved out of. But the great thing, saith Wisdom, now is to discipline and make thy Spirit a cunning Artist. Sidney's contemporary Puttenham maintains that poets were "the first priests, the first prophets, the first legislators and politicians in the world. Balfour On James Harrington's political usage of Virgil, see Norbrook The Readie and Easie Way, "Thus much I should perhaps have said though I were sure I should have spoken only to trees and stones; and had none to cry to, but with the Prophet, O earth, earth, earth!
For a discussion of Milton's understanding of himself as a prophet, see Kerrigan. John Dryden in the prefa Sebastian , "Tis the contrivance, the new turn characters, which alter the property and make it ours.
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Edward Niles Hooker, et al. Kewes Paula McDowell adopts argument, esp. On the other hand, Esther Co tains that the prophetess Eleanor Davies "incorporated her al identity in her prophet persona" and did not imagine he unsexed or androgynous vessel for the spirit, C Patriarch's Wife See Barnes, Book IV,? Cowley's work was printed in Latin in Abraham Cowley. Now made English b Hands appeared in In this work she also begs from right to wear the laurels of the poet "by a double right. In proving Behn to be not only a substantial writer but a political radical, he provided further evidence of this belief, but he also vindicated his own valuing of a previously obscure and minor writer.
In Angeline Goreau's biography of Behn, Reconstructing Aphra: A Social Biography of Aphra Behn, Behn's biography symbolizes the lives of feminists in , who, like Goreau, long to be free, and must suffer because of that desire. The minimal facts that are available about Behn's life need to be reconstructed to form a tale that projects the predicament of the modern feminist scholar onto earlier women writers. Both the bawdy and self-reliant Aphra Behn imagined by the Bloomsburies and the confident radical of Woodman's work have been replaced: Behn is depicted as a defensive woman, beset by critics, who must suffer for her art.
Here, the myth of Aphra Behn as suffering heroine, struggling to publish in the face of a hostile world, offers a form of retelling of Goreau's own life story. Goreau needed to generate a tradition that would valorize her project, and so by constructing the oppressed Behn, she makes this tradition visible, and locates her own experience, and resentment of the hostile and male-dominated literary academy within an authenticated history of painful and unjustified attacks on women writers.
By the mids, feminist criticism had moved beyond the need to posit an absolute identification between the gender politics of early women writers, and those of the feminist scholars that were writing about them. Todd says in her introduction that her version of Behn may be too political for some. Here she means not political in terms of the libertarianism that Woodcock believed that he shared with Behn, or the gender wars with which Goreau identified, but political in terms of Behn's own involvement in contemporary politics.
Janet Todd: Aphra Behn: A secret life
Todd places great emphasis on Behn's early spying activities, and on the networks of Tory intrigue to which Behn was connected. But this 'historicising' of Behn once again operates as part of a wider set of concerns. In the s criticism of Behn's work was collected into two collections of essays, one edited by Heidi Hutner and the other by Janet Todd. Broadly speaking, the Hutner book is critical and theoretical, and includes the work of North American critics.
In contrast, the essays in Todd's collection, mainly by British academics, tend to set works in their historical and theatrical context, emphasizing Behn's use of contemporary political rhetoric, or staging devices. So in the context of this division of emphasis in recent Anglo-American criticism, Todd's construction of the 'political' Behn is not an unpartisan contribution to current debate. In presenting Behn as a Tory polemicist who was much engaged with the specific power struggles of the s and 80s, she offers a biographical justification for her own school of historical criticism on Behn.
It seems that analysis of Behn reveals more about her biographers than it does about the elusive writers, but this is perhaps because of Behn's writing choices. Through her manipulation of prose and personae and by playing with the extent of her self-identification with a narrator or character, Behn leads readers into positing exactly the kinds of equations between life and works that troubled her biographers.
The most famous example of this authorial self-revelation is in her use of the narrator in Oroonoko. In this fiction, we see Behn clearly inserting herself into the narrative, as both agent and observer. She begins the account by declaring that:. From this point onwards it becomes increasingly unclear at what point the 'I' is the historical Behn, and at what point she is a fictional persona.
This becomes especially complex since her identification with the narrator is grounded partly in her exploitation of her public persona, her readers' awareness of her as 'that notorious woman playwright', and partly in her use of the story as a form of autobiography of her unknown early personal life. At the very beginning of the account, the narrator describes the habits and costumes of the Native Americans, detailing in particular their use of exotic birds' feather to make headdresses.
She adds to this:. According to theatre historians, such a feathered headdress does indeed seem to have been used in the many heroic dramas set in the exotic New World. Behn wrote Oroonoko in her probable trip to Surinam, the location of Oroonoko , took place at the beginning of the s. If she brought the feathers back with her in the late s, the first readers of Oroonoko would probably have seen this feathered headdress in a range of theatrical productions over the 70s and 80s.
So here the account in Oroonoko dovetails with the readers' actual knowledge of Behn and her theatrical world. The reference to the headdress adds authenticity to the account, and affirms the narrator's status as one and the same as the public playwright Aphra Behn whose plays and headdress they had seen at the Duke's Theatre. We find a different sort of authorial stance when the narrator describes her time with Oroonoko and Imoinda.
She says of this:. But these stories were published after Oroonoko , in and Leo Tolstoy. Emily Bronte. Rabindranath Tagore. The Complete Works of Franz Kafka. Franz Kafka. Ben Jonson.
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