The Rover

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The Rover Act 5, Scene 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The still humiliated Blunt hides in his room, but to no avail; his friends literally besiege the door, attempting to force it open. Although Blunt claims first to be praying, and then to be with a woman, no one believes him. In fact, hearing there is a woman within, Willmore jokingly comments that he must share her with his friends; he also betrays that Frederick has told them all about the captured Florinda (although no one knows her identity). Having broken down the door at last, Belvile, Willmore, Don Pedro, and a page enter, laughing at Blunt as he draws his sword.
Despite the various subplots swirling around them, the men still pause in order to tease Blunt, proving that, no matter what, amusement, mockery, and wit are the most important values within a Restoration comedy. Not knowing that Blunt and Frederick have captured Florinda, the men—Pedro and Belvile included—find the entire situation deeply amusing.
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As Blunt reacts angrily, the others try to coax him into a good mood even as they continue mocking him. Willmore and Belvile express sympathy, while Pedro apologizes for the rudeness of his country, saying that if he can, he will help Blunt avenge himself. Blunt then reveals that he still has Florinda (who he doesn’t know is Florinda) in his possession, and means to ruin her. He falsely tells the men that she attacked him, and attempted to rape him, but that he defended himself with his sword.
Although every one of these men is highborn, they seem to find Blunt’s imprisonment of Florinda to be amusing rather than troubling. Once again, the play shows that the free-for-all attitude of Carnival has a dark side, since it allows men to think that they can abuse and violate lower class women without any consequences.
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Frederick urges Blunt to show their companions Florinda’s ring; when he does so, Belvile immediately recognizes it as the one he gave his beloved. He attempts to draw Blunt aside to avoid giving Florinda away to Don Pedro, but the indiscreet Willmore foils him, telling him that there can be no secrecy when a woman is involved. Belvile attempts trickery, telling him to hide the ring lest people think that prostitutes would rather bribe Englishmen than sleep with them.
After yet again failing to understand that his beloved Florinda is near, Belvile realizes his mistake, but to no avail; and as has happened so many times before, Willmore is to blame. Behn here is demonstrating the real consequences of Willmore’s immorality and indiscretion, which is often amusing but is genuinely dangerous as well.
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Willmore proposes that they go see Florinda to determine whether she is a noblewoman or not. As they are about to go, Belvile panics and demands the key. The men begin to argue, with Willmore saying that he wishes to go in first, and Frederick maintaining that he and Blunt still have custody. Willmore proposes that they all draw their swords, and that the man with the longest shall go in first; Belvile tries once again to intervene, and Willmore ignores him.
The men are convinced that they will be able to recognize Florinda as noble, even though they have misidentified her as a commoner multiple times throughout the play. The sword contest, meanwhile, is a vulgar joke: whoever has the “longest” sword is the most masculine, and therefore the most qualified to judge Florinda.
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Because Spaniards traditionally carry longer swords than Englishmen, Don Pedro wins, and the other men give up their claim to Florinda. As Pedro exits, unaware that he is about to threaten his own sister, Belvile curses Willmore for his “mischief.” Willmore reacts peevishly, disappointed that he has lost the contest; Belvile bemoans his friend’s apparent stupidity.
The men still view the imprisonment of Florinda as a kind of game, especially Willmore, whose appetite for mischief and mirth has completely taken over his common sense.
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Florinda reenters, still masked, chased by Don Pedro. He demands to know who she is and why she is here, implying that he thinks she is a prostitute. Simultaneously, Belvile and Florinda both worry that her brother will discover her identity, while Willmore wonders whether Florinda is the same woman whom he recently followed.
On one hand, this chase is a comic one of mistaken identity. On the other hand, the fact that Florinda is being menaced by her own brother is truly horrifying. This mixture of light and dark is characteristic of Behn’s writing.
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Valeria enters, and is surprised by Don Pedro. Thinking on her feet, however, she runs to Pedro and claims that Florinda has run away in the guise of a page, but that Callis believes they can still catch her. Pedro announces that he must leave Belvile, but demands that, if Florinda flees to him, he return her to her family. Belvile promises to follow the commands of his love and honor, and Pedro, satisfied, exits.
Valeria proves once more that she is a brave and intelligent woman in her own right. Don Pedro, meanwhile, proves himself completely oblivious, since he thinks that Belvile will remain loyal to him rather than to Florinda. Having made such a stupid decision, by the logic of the play, he deserves to be fooled.
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A relieved Florinda embraces Valeria. Willmore and Blunt look on, confused, as Valeria urges Florinda and Belvile to marry each other quickly before Don Pedro returns. Realizing who Florinda is, Willmore begs her pardon and kisses her hand; she forgives him, and he notes her beauty. They send the page off to fetch a priest.
At last the tangled knot of identities begins to untie itself, as Florinda and Belvile are finally reunited. Realizing their mistake, the men are mortified; now that they know that Florinda is the noble beloved of Belvile, she once again has value in their eyes. That Florinda so easily forgives them is likely shocking for a modern audience, and shows how women too in Restoration comedies accepted the idea that lower-class women were simply acceptable targets of sexual attack (!).
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Frederick, too, apologizes, and Florinda says that she will forgive him as long as he follows Belvile’s example and marries the woman who loves him. Frederick reacts with confusion, and Belvile scoffs, saying that Frederick would never fall in love with a woman. Valeria, however, begs to disagree; she reveals that she and Frederick have decided that if Belvile and Florinda marry, the two of them will as well.
In keeping with the Carnival-esque atmosphere of the play, Frederick and Valeria decide to get married even though they barely know each other. This type of group marriage is a common pattern in this type of comedy, as it is assumed that romantic success and happiness are one and the same.
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Lastly, Blunt begs Florinda’s forgiveness, and she grants it immediately. He gives Belvile back Florinda’s ring, too ashamed to hand it to her himself.
Even though Blunt has acted abominably, Florinda’s noble breeding, and her feminine gentleness, means that she forgives him instantly.
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The page reenters with a priest, and the four lovers exit to be married. Willmore remains onstage to stand guard against Don Pedro’s return. The page enters once again, telling Willmore that a woman is here to see him, and adding that Blunt’s tailor is here to make him new clothes. Blunt leaves, while Willmore asks that the woman be shown in.
While the arcs of these two couples have effectively ended, Willmore’s plot continues on, a mark of his importance and magnetism as a character. Belvile and Frederick may be happy to enter into matrimony, but the same is not true of the lusty Rover.
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Angelica enters, veiled and masked. Willmore runs to her, believing it to be his gypsy girl and demanding that she confess her trickery. Angelica, however, threatens Willmore with a pistol and advances upon him. Bewildered as to who she is, Willmore asks to see her face. Angelica removes her mask, saying that he has already forgotten her and calling him a traitor.
At last the audience and Willmore see the full consequences of his actions: he has driven Angelica to near madness and violence. Like the dueling of the men earlier, Angelica’s actions again demonstrate the destructive powers of love and lust.
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Willmore attempts to talk Angelica out of her murderous intentions and Angelica laments that, even now, his words have the power to sway her; she asks if he wishes to repent, asks him how many hearts he has broken, and accuses him of stealing her self-confidence and agency. She continues to threaten him with a pistol and once again tells him that he has broken his vows.
Even when his life is threatened, Willmore still has faith in his powers of persuasion. Angelica, meanwhile, is a broken woman; she no longer has any pride because Willmore has taken it from her.
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The cavalier retorts that Angelica herself has broken hearts, but she maintains that she has always repaid her lovers’ vows. Willmore asserts that Angelica has grown spoiled and lazy because of her long liaison with the elderly general, and that she does not understand the ways of young lovers. Angelica says that Willmore has robbed her eyes of power, and that she now understands her true inner weakness. She says that all the offerings and adoration she has received are worthless, because she has lost her honor.
Despite his terrible behavior throughout the play, Willmore still believes that he has acted no worse than any other character might. Yet while he maintains this, Angelica clearly believes otherwise. Having succumbed to love, she now finds it impossible to live without the flattery and validation that Willmore gave her.
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Willmore seems to react with genuine remorse, saying that for her sake, he wishes that he could be constant and faithful. In a rare moment of self-knowledge, however, he admits that this will never happen; it is not in his nature. He adds that he will pay her back for her time, and offers her a purse of gold. Angelica says that she still must kill him for the sake of all womankind as well as her own grief, and she prepares to shoot.
At last Willmore exhibits some sense of decency, signaling that on some level, he understands the consequences of his unfaithfulness, and even wishes that he could behave differently. Angelica, however, is acting much like Blunt, wishing to avenge all of womankind upon a single man.
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Don Antonio enters unexpectedly, having seen Angelica’s coach at the door of the house. Though injured, he immediately takes away her pistol, only to offer to shoot Willmore himself, believing him to be a rival for Angelica’s love. The courtesan, however, begs him not to shoot.
Faced with the actual idea of Willmore’s death, Angelica cannot go through with it—she clearly still cares for him. Don Antonio’s lust for her, meanwhile, is so strong that he would kill for her without question.
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Don Pedro reenters, but hides when he sees Don Antonio with Angelica. Obeying Angelica’s command, Antonio says that he will not shoot Willmore, for her sake. Angelica says that she will give Willmore life in order to demonstrate her utmost contempt for him, and orders him to go where her eyes will never see him, and to one day love a woman who will revenge their entire sex. At last, she exits.
Having chosen not to kill Willmore, Angelica instead wishes the worst thing she can imagine on him: that one day he will be humbled by a woman, as she has humbled him. Her exit is a disturbing one, and the audience is left with the sense that she has been somehow punished for her power and her sexuality, that the society depicted in the play (which is an exaggeration of the society watching the play) cannot abide any woman being independent in terms of power and sex and so humbled and defeated her.
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As Angelica leaves, Don Antonio goes to follow her, but Don Pedro stops him, asking why he did not attend their duel on the Molo that morning. Antonio reacts with surprise that Don Pedro was his unknown opponent, and says that he could not hold a sword. Pedro persists, appalled that Antonio would send his rival—Belvile—to fight for Florinda’s honor. Angrily, the two men agree to duel when Antonio is healed.
Another confusion of identities is at last cleared up, as Antonio realizes that he was supposed to duel Don Pedro. Behn leaves the future duel with them as a loose end; implying, perhaps, that while her play may end, the cycle of men committing violence for the sake of women (and for the sake of violence) will never be over.
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The still angry Don Pedro resolves to give Florinda to Belvile in revenge against Antonio. Willmore reveals that the marriage has already taken place; he adds that if Belvile is anything like him, then the marriage has been consummated as well. Don Pedro, incredulous, asks if Belvile is afraid of his power; Willmore says that they do not fear the Spaniard, and threatens to employ the crew of the ship that brought him to Naples to kidnap Don Pedro unless he blesses the marriage.
Pedro still thinks of Florinda as an object to give to whomever he chooses. Willmore, however, finally uses his mischievous powers for good. He does not care about acting gentlemanly or courteous towards Pedro, and so is able to threaten and intimidate the Spaniard in a way that the noble Belvile cannot.
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Belvile enters and is immediately suspicious of Willmore’s actions. Don Pedro asks if Belvile has married Florinda and, hearing that he has, wishes them joy, embracing his new brother-in-law. The two exit to tell Florinda of this happy turn of events, with Willmore following them.
Knowing that he has been beaten, the ultimately cowardly Pedro gives in. Such an implausible reversal of fortunes is common within this genre of comedy, allowing its virtuous lovers to finally find happiness together.
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As Willmore is about to exit, however, Hellena enters once again disguised in boy’s clothes, and pulls him back onstage. Willmore responds with a string of effusive compliments, saying that all his friends have a woman except for him. He adds that if she had not come along, he would have thought of her alone in his empty cabin.
Left out of the coupling that is taking place all around him, and unattached to Angelica, Willmore responds enthusiastically to Hellena, even though most of what he tells her is completely untrue. Of course, part of his excitement undoubtedly has to do with Hellena’s wealth.
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Hellena asks whether he would have left her behind, and Willmore swears that they will never part again. She then questions whether an innocent virgin like herself can trust a friend like Willmore. He replies that she is far too beautiful for friendship. He maintains, however, that he is afraid of being in love, and that she has wronged him. She replies that she will not change her behavior until she has showed the whole world that Willmore is hers and hers alone—then, she says, he will love only her. She adds that she has no other virtues or nobility to recommend her, besides persistence. Willmore is delighted, saying that he would rather have a mad, good-natured mistress than a coy one.
Even after all that has happened, the pair still slip easily back into easy banter. Their dialogue now has a truthful ring to it, however, with both characters admitting apprehension about actually embarking on a relationship together. Despite this newfound honesty, they are still deeply attracted to each other; this connection is not simply a physical one, but intellectual as well. Mad and bold characters, they are happy to find those qualities mirrored in another.
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Both Hellena and Willmore agree that they should lose no time, and the cavalier proposes that they go up to his chamber immediately. Hellena, however, insists that they be married first. Willmore resists, calling marriage the “Bane of Love,” but Hellena stands firm, saying that if they do not marry, he will leave her with nothing but an illegitimate child and regrets.
The pair falls into the old pattern of the male seducer and the seduced female, as Hellena again refuses to sleep with Willmore before marriage. Note, too, that Hellena essentially proposes to Willmore, in a huge reversal of gender norms (and yet made appropriate in a twisted way since she is still dressed as a boy).
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Willmore asks her for at least one kiss, but Hellena shows him only scorn, saying that if he can be satisfied by a single kiss, then he must not really love her. She attempts to go out, but Willmore stops her, saying that he adores her and wishes to marry her, because they are so alike. He kisses her hand and resolves to give his fate over to love and fortune. She reacts with shock.
Hellena brilliantly uses Willmore’s lust for her against him, and at last her constant refusal works. Within this context, Willmore’s agreement to marry her does not seem like a defeat; instead, it appears that he is happy to at last have met his match.
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Willmore proposes that they tell each other their names, so that they may curse each other later in life. Hellena retorts by saying that she wants to know his name so that she can bless it. He tells her he is called “Robert the Constant,” and she mocks it as a dog’s name. In turn, she tells him that she is called “Hellena the Inconstant.”
After this display of sincere emotion, the two quickly revert to insulting and teasing each other. In a somewhat shocking moment, they at last reveal their true identities to each other – reminding the audience that they didn’t know these things about each other up until this moment and proving just how mad and bold these two characters really are.
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Pedro, Belvile, Florinda, Frederick, and Valeria reenter; Florinda is shocked to see her sister, and Pedro attempts to pull Hellena away, but Willmore protects her. Hellena announces that she is in love with Willmore, despite her brother’s anger.
Having at last tamed Willmore, Hellena is not fearful of her brother in the slightest. In falling in love, she appears to have become empowered; all thoughts of her joining a nunnery now seem implausible.
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Don Pedro turns to Belvile, furious that both his noble, wealthy sisters have fallen in love with impoverished Englishmen. Belvile responds that his friends have fallen on hard times, but are still gentlemen. Willmore asserts that he can give Hellena only his sword to protect her, but says that he loved her before he knew her nobility or her name, and is resolved to marry her.
Although the characters have quarreled and fought throughout the play, they all agree that nobility is the most important quality to have in a spouse. Willmore, meanwhile, having fallen in love at last, has conveniently forgotten how much of his interest in Hellena stems from her wealth.
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Don Pedro asks if Hellena really intends to give up the holiness of nunhood in favor of the sins of men. Hellena says that she is an independent woman, with three hundred thousand crowns of her own, and that she would rather use that money for love rather than religion. She asks the gathered characters (and presumably the audience) whether she should be faithful to Heaven or the Captain, and all cry out “the Captain!”
Although Pedro has power over Hellena because of his gender, he ultimately cannot take her wealth or her power away from her. The moment of Hellena’s question, meanwhile, invites a certain amount of audience participation, which would have delighted Restoration audiences of the time. It also suggests that the society of the time took a perverse delight in not being all that religious.
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Remembering Willmore’s threatening group of sailors, Don Pedro concedes. He adds that at least he will no longer have to guard Hellena’s honor. Now, that job will be Willmore’s. The cavalier responds that Englishmen do not guard women’s honor when the women wish to part with it. Lastly, Don Pedro forgives Valeria as well, and prays that they will all gain his father’s pardon as well (though he fears they will not).
Seemingly as unconventional as Hellena, Willmore seems to trust his wife, believing that he will not need to force her to remain faithful to him. Behn also includes a brief reminder that this has all taken place during Carnival time, and will no doubt meet with Don Vincentio’s disapproval. (Though you can imagine a good sequel involving Don Vincentio chasing down the lovers, and Behn actually did write a sequel to the Rover, that isn’t the sequel she wrote.)
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Blunt enters, looking ridiculous in Spanish clothes. He is furious about the new clothes, and the others mock him; Belvile at last appeases him by saying that he looks like a cavalier. Blunt then greets Hellena and asks her to forgive his Spanish clothes.
Of course the play would not be complete without one last moment of humiliation for the idiotic Blunt. This mockery, however, seems like a small punishment, considering his behavior towards Florinda.
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From offstage, the assembled characters hear music; the page enters and tells them that revelers have come into the house to dance with them. The masqueraders enter, and Blunt wishes he could remove their masks to see if Lucetta is among them. As the other couples begin to dance, Willmore asks Hellena if she is frightened to marry him; she replies that she feels as he might before a battle or a storm. Calling her brave and declaring his love for her, Willmore says that those who brave “the Storms” of a “Marriage-Bed” should fear “no other Dangers.” All exit.
Considering the importance of Carnival within the play, it is appropriate that it ends with revelry, merriment, and masquerade. Within the hubbub, the main couple shares a scene of quiet honesty. Both are apprehensive, and whether they will remain faithful is completely unclear. Within the ridiculousness of Restoration comedy, this is a clear-sighted and realistic acknowledgement on Behn’s part that matrimony does not always lead to fidelity and happiness, a somewhat revolutionary point at the time.
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In a rhymed epilogue, the author once again pokes fun at modern audiences, stating that if The Rover does not please them, it is because they have bad taste. She mocks modern drama, calling theatergoers fops and fools. She ends by saying that even the most popular actors can never act as foolishly as audience members.
Behn reminds her audiences that they have come to her play to see themselves mocked, and that no matter how exaggerated the action of the performance seems, real life will always be more ridiculous and outrageous.
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