A Patriarchic Society in Aphra Behn's The Rover
In her play The Rover, Aphra Behn uses the treatment of women to suggest the presence of a strong patriarchic society and what harm can become of it. The main female character Florinda is manipulated, used, and treated horribly by men in instances of near-rape, battering and beating, and foul language among other things. Behn also uses Willmore, one of the main male characters, and his attitude towards women to prove her point. By doing this, Behn is suggesting patriarchy is dangerous for women, and their lack of fighting against it presupposes what can happen to women over time if this strong patriarchic society is allowed to flourish.
In act three, Florinda is almost raped by a drunken Willmore. He doesn’t know who she is, he thinks she’s just, “A female! By this light, a woman! I’m a dog if it be not a very wench” (III.v.16 –17). This shows that he only sees her as a sex object. He then tries to take advantage of her. As she puts up a struggle, he says, “Come, come, take it or I’ll put it up again…Why, how now, mistress, are you so high i’th’ mouth a pistole won’t down with you? ...Come, no struggling to be gone…I’m for ye” (III.v.67 – 72), trying to force her into submission. In another instance in act four, the same thing nearly happens again to Florinda when she ventures into Blunt’s house. Blunt has been tricked by another woman and decides to take his revenge out on that woman by sleeping with Florinda. He gets very physical with her and Florinda protests with, “Dare you be so cruel?” (IV.v.51). Blunt replies with this heartless speech: “Cruel? ...as a galley slave, or a Spanish whore…I will kiss and beat thee all over, kiss and see thee all over; thou shalt lie with me too, not that I care for the enjoyment, but to let thee see I have ta’en deliberated malice to thee, and will be revenged on one whore for the sins of another” (IV.v.53 – 57), indicating that he only sees her as a thing, rather than a person. These instances of how horribly Florinda is treated show how Behn thinks women are seen and even treated in the patriarchic society. Florinda, and all women, appear as just playthings to be used as one wishes.
Willmore is the prime example of how horribly women are treated in this play. He nearly rapes Florinda, he attempts to seduce Hellena upon first meeting, he sleeps with Angellica after he’s made a vow of love to Hellena, and he makes sexual comments to just about every woman he encounters. Behn also uses him to show how easily women are manipulated by men. Women are only sex objects to Willmore. When he and Hellena meet again at the end of the play, Willmore convinces her that he is trustworthy. Then he launches off into trying to persuade her to sleep with him again, just as he did when he first met her: “Therefore, dear creature, since we are so well agreed, let’s retire to my chamber; and if ever thou wert treated with such savory love! ...