Aphra Behn has, throughout her life and subsequent years, been both demonized as a writer of bawdy and licentious plays and poetry as well as being hailed as the forerunner of female writers. She was a woman writing in a man's world, and not only survived the experience, but was exceptionally successful in her efforts. While so little is known about her background, the numerous plays she has left behind demonstrate a skilled author in many forms, as well as a creative and innovative storyteller. This thesis will examine how Behn used the traditional theatrical forms of the time and created dynamic female characters that were quite unique in their own ways. Stock characters were a standard in Restoration comedies, and she used these types to make significantly stronger female characters than those portrayed by her contemporary male playwrights. I will examine and compare her female libertines to the traditional male libertines in the plays The Rover or The Banish't Cavaliers and The Feign'd Curtizans or A Night's Intrigue. Following this, I will describe how her female fop in Sir Patient Fancy is so much superior to the customary male fop. The succeeding chapter will examine Lady Julia Fulbank from The Luckey Chance or An Alderman's Bargain and demonstrates how Behn was able to move outside of the traditional types of characters expected in these plays to create an entirely new character that has no counterpart in any Restoration play. Behn used the forms and tools available to her to create much more independent and dominant female characters than those expected in the genre. She created a voice for women, and the voice strongly declared that women were as capable, if not more so, than men.



College and Department

Fine Arts and Communications; Theatre and Media Arts



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Aphra Behn, libertines, cuckolds, restoration, theatre