The Rover or The Banish'd Cavaliers is a play in two parts written by the British author Aphra Behn. It was a very popular Restoration comedy.
Behn had famously worked as a spy for Charles II against the Dutch. However, Charles was slow to pay her for her services and slow to meet his promises, if he ever paid her at all, and Behn sought to make money first with her poetry, and then with plays and novels. The Rover appeared on the stage in 1677, and it was popular enough that a second part appeared in 1681. The play appeared for a long run, enabling Behn to make a fair income from it (the author received the proceeds from the box office every third night the play ran).
Behn's work should always be read with an eye toward her contemporary political world. She was a Royalist, and her works frequently treat Puritans and democracy roughly. The subtitle's "Banish'd Cavaliers" is a reference to the world of exile that the cavalier forces experienced during the interregnum. Behn based her play on Thomas Killigrew's The Wanderer (1664). It features multiple plots, dealing with the amorous adventures of a group of Englishmen in Naples at Carnival time. The "rover" of the play's title is Willmore, a rake and naval captain, who falls in love with a young woman named Hellena, who has set out to experience love before her brother sends her to a convent. Complications arise when Angellica Bianca, a famous courtesan in love with Willmore, swears revenge on him for his betrayal. In another plot, Hellena's sister Florinda attempts to marry her true love, Colonel Belvile, rather than the man her brother has selected. The third major plot of the play deals with the provincial Blunt, who falls in love with a girl who turns out to be a prostitute and a thief.
Contemporary feminist scholars often focus on the play's many instances of women vulnerable to rape, and the tragic results of Angellica's being jilted by Willmore. They see in these plot elements a protest against the powerlessness of women in Behn's time.
Willmore (who may have been a parallel to Charles II) proved to be an extremely popular character, and four years later Behn wrote a sequel to the play. King Charles II was himself a fan of The Rover, and received a private showing of the play.
"There is no sinner like a young saint."
"Money speaks sense in a language all nations understand."
"Come away, Poverty's catching!"
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