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The Journal of English Language and Literature , Vol.65, No.3, 543 ~ 562, 2019
A Whore in Love: Female Libertine and Women’s Sexual Desire in Aphra Behn’s The Second Part of The Rover (1681)
Youmi Jung
Aphra Behn’s dark and cynical comedy written and performed in 1681, The Rover Part II, features a prostitute-heroine ardently in love with a libertine rake-hero. One of the most celebrated and admired actresses of the time Elizabeth Barry played the prostitute-heroine La Nuche, jointly creating a new and sympathetic image for the prostitute character. This essay examines how Behn dramatizes a wider range of female desires and perspectives by capitalizing a pool of experienced actresses in the Duke’s Company including Elizabeth Barry. It then focuses on how Behn’s dramatic exploration of working-class women with libertine desires and lifestyle addresses issues unique to female libertines. While scholars have noted Behn’s critical examination of male libertinism in her plays, they have not paid much attention to female libertine characters. Prostitute-heroine La Nuche differs from typical romantic heroines because she is not bound by patriarchal control, but her constant and intense fear of poverty highlights her vulnerability as a woman who should make a living by exchanging her limited and temporary resource of beauty and youth. The play’s concluding libertine union between Willmore and La Nuche is also carefully orchestrated to underscore the complex web of situation in which La Nuche puts herself in and how such union can never offer a model alternative to marriage especially for women. As a play that explore the multifaceted problem of female sexual and libertine desire, The Rover Part II should be read as a black comedy that takes desiring women’s dilemma as its subject matter.
Key Words
Aphra Behn, Libertine, Sexual Desire, Elizabeth Barry, Actress
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