The Rover

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Hellena Character Analysis

The strong, witty, brave heroine, and sister to Florinda and Don Pedro, Hellena starts the play determined to venture out into the Carnival and fall in love, although her brother Don Pedro wishes for her to become a nun. When she meets Willmore, she is entranced by his wit and charm, and seemingly unafraid of his flirtatious, promiscuous ways. As the plot progresses, she repeatedly uses different masks and disguises (such as a gypsy girl and even a page boy) in order to ensnare her faithless beloved, even as she repeatedly fends off his attempts to seduce her and take her virginity. At the play’s end, Hellena has apparently gotten what she wants—Willmore’s hand in marriage. Their bantering and bickering, however, along with their vows to be unfaithful to each other, makes it clear that they will have, at the very least, an interesting union.

Hellena Quotes in The Rover

The The Rover quotes below are all either spoken by Hellena or refer to Hellena. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of The Rover published in 1993.
Act 1, Scene 1 Quotes

I am resolv’d to provide myself this Carnival, if there be e’er a handsom Fellow of my Humour above Ground, tho I ask first.

Related Characters: Hellena (speaker), Florinda
Related Symbols: Carnival
Page Number: 160
Explanation and Analysis:

As the play opens, Hellena is immediately established as brave, impertinent, and un-traditional. Her stereotypically unfeminine attitude contrasts with that of Florinda, who is gentle, modest, and demure. Thus playwright Aphra Behn has immediately introduced a complication to her play's presentation of gender roles. Florinda may be the "ideal" woman, but it is Hellena for whom the audience will root and with whom we will identify.

Hellena's statement in this passage is particularly transgressive, as she vows to "provide" for herself, and to find herself a handsome man during Carnival season. During this period in England, women were supposed to be passive objects of men's advances; the idea of a woman seeking out a man would have been shocking to those viewing the play.

It is significant, too, that Hellena has picked Carnival time to begin this mission. During Carnival in The Rover the world turns upside down, and untraditional behavior such as Hellena's becomes far more possible than it would be at any other time during the year. This theme of the topsy-turvy nature of Carnival will continue to expand throughout the play. 

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Act 1, Scene 2 Quotes

Hellena: If you should prevail with my tender Heart (as I begin to fear you will, for you have horrible loving Eyes) there will be difficulty in’t that you’ll hardly undergo for my sake.
Willmore: Faith, Child, I have been bred in Dangers, and wear a Sword that has been employ’d in a worse Cause, than for a handsom kind Woman—Name the Danger—let it be any thing but a long Siege, and I’ll undertake it.

Related Characters: Willmore (speaker), Hellena (speaker)
Related Symbols: Swords
Page Number: 169
Explanation and Analysis:

Soon after Willmore is introduced, he meets his match in the disguised Hellena, who has escaped her chambers dressed as a "gypsy." It is immediately obvious to the audience that Hellena and Willmore are meant for each other. The two wittiest characters in the play, as they banter they fill their conversation with puns and double entendres. Thus their immediate physical attraction to each other is made clear through language. 

It is also vital to note that both Willmore and Hellena participate in a sexually charged way of speaking. While this would be expected of the rakish Willmore, it is surprising in the well-bred Hellena. Yet again we see this character's non-traditional nature, as she tempts Willmore with her "tender Heart" and notes his "loving Eyes." 

Wilmore, for his part, rises to the occasion as he sees that Hellena can match his wit. Chivalrously--so it seems--he swears to wield his sword for her, but then adds that he will not undergo "a long Siege." What he means, of course, is that he hopes Hellena will quickly give up his virtue to him and let him sleep with her.

Act 2, Scene 1 Quotes

Willmore: But why thus disguis’d and muzzl’d?
Belvile: Because whatever Extravagances we commit in these Faces, our own may not be oblig’d to answer ‘em.
Willmore: I should have changed my Eternal Buff too: but no matter, my little Gypsy wou’d not have found me out then: for if she should change hers, it is impossible I should know her, unless I should hear her prattle—A Pox on’t, I cannot get her out of my Head: Pray Heaven, if ever I do see her again, she prove damnably ugly, that I may fortify my self against her Tongue.

Related Characters: Willmore (speaker), Belvile (speaker), Hellena
Related Symbols: Carnival, Masks
Page Number: 174
Explanation and Analysis:

The cavaliers here discuss the subject of masks, as Belvile explains how a mask can allow for bad behavior, since they keep one's true face hidden. The concept of mistaken identity and deception is a common one in The Rover. The characters constantly lie to and manipulate each other, as they fight for dominance while also trying to keep their reputations (outside of the Carnival atmosphere) intact.

Willmore, meanwhile, is baffled by his sudden strong feelings towards the disguised Hellena. He feels that he is at a disadvantage, since she has seen his true face and he has not seen hers. In fact, he even hopes that she might be ugly, because he is so entranced by her wit. Willmore's emotion towards Hellena underscores the importance of banter and language within the play. Although he is extremely superficial in terms of appearance and lust, Willmore here finds himself falling in love with a woman whose face he has never actually seen, merely because of her intelligence and wit. 

Act 3, Scene 1 Quotes

O’ my Conscience, that will be our Destiny, because we are both of one humour; I am as inconstant as you, for I have considered, Captain, that a handsom Woman has a great deal to do whilst her Face is good, for then is our Harvest-time to gather Friends; and should I in these days of my Youth, catch a fitch of foolish Constancy, I were undone; ‘tis loitering by da-light in our great Journey: therefore declare, I’ll allow but one year for Love, one year for Indifference, and one year for Hate—and then—go hang yourself—for I profess myself the gay, the kind, and the inconstant—the Devil’s in’t if this won’t please you.

Related Characters: Hellena (speaker), Willmore
Page Number: 193
Explanation and Analysis:

Hellena, in her gypsy disguise, has discovered Willmore leaving Angelica's house. Although she first reacts with anger, she quickly slips back into her flirtatious banter with him. In this section, Willmore has just jokingly threatened to marry Hellena. In response, she says that they are equally "inconstant," because young, beautiful women like herself must also take advantage of their youth. She says that even if she fell in love with him, she would then quickly move on to "Indifference"and then "Hate" so as not to waste time. 

Once again, Hellena and Willmore have proved themselves the wittiest characters in the play. In the midst of their conversation, Hellena has once more reversed traditional gender roles. Of the pair of them, Willmore is the only truly inconstant one, attempting to seduce Angelica and Hellena almost simultaneously, while Hellena (secretly) wants only him. Here, however, she plays hard-to-get, telling Willmore that she would never be faithful to him because to do so would mean wasting her youth. This is a stereotypically masculine mindset, and not one that the audience--or Willmore--would expect from a highborn young lady. The cavalier, though, is delighted by Hellena's attitude towards love, lust, and romance. He is entranced by the very aspects that make her seem "un-feminine," and believes that he has truly met his match, in female form. 

Ah Rogue! Such black Eyes, such a Face, such a Mouth, such Teeth—and so much Wit!

Related Characters: Willmore (speaker), Hellena
Related Symbols: Masks
Page Number: 196
Explanation and Analysis:

Near the end of their banter, Hellena finally shows Willmore her face, before exiting. The cavalier is spellbound by her beauty, and is glad that it matches her linguistic abilities. 

Here the usually eloquent Willmore is reduced to listing Hellena's admirable features, ending with the most important one of all: her "Wit." His lovestruck attitude here contrasts with his usually witty words, showing the audience that he may have sincere feelings of love for Hellena. 

This passage also shows how closely Willmore relates beauty and wit. For him, they are essentially two sides of the same coin; beauty is the physical side of an attractive person, while wit is the linguistic side. Willmore's ideal woman--Hellena--possesses both. 

Act 4, Scene 2 Quotes

Angelica: Thou, false as Hell, what canst thou say to this?
Willmore: By Heaven—
Angelica: Hold, do not damn thy self—
Hellena: Nor hope to be believ’d.
Angelica: Oh perjur’d Man!
Is’t thus you pay my generous Passion back?
Hellena: Why wou’d you, Sir, abuse my Lady’s Faith?
Angelica: And use me so inhumanly?
Hellena: A Maid so young, so innocent—
Willmore: Ah, young Devil!
Angelica: Dost thou not know thy Life is in my power?
Hellena: Or think my Lady cannot be reveng’d?
Willmore: So, so, the Storm comes finely on.
Angelica: Now thou art silent, Guilt has struck thee dumb.
Oh hadst thou still been so, I’d liv’d in safety.

Related Characters: Willmore (speaker), Hellena (speaker), Angelica (speaker)
Related Symbols: Masks
Page Number: 217
Explanation and Analysis:

A furious Angelica and a disguised Hellena both turn on Willmore, ripping him apart for his faithlessness and deceit. This is a highly comic scene, as both women are able to verbally abuse their disloyal lover. At the same time, it gives the audience a chance to see how truly hurt both Angelica and Hellena are by Willmore's actions--and how utterly unrepentant the rakish cavalier continues to be. 

This scene is also notable for Hellena's skillful manipulation of the circumstances. A master of disguise, the highborn lady is here dressed up as a servant boy, able to fool her lover into revealing his true, sinful nature, and to chide him without revealing to him who she is. She also manages to turn Angelica against him, thus potentially ridding herself of a romantic rival. 

If it were possible I should ever be inclin’d to marry, it should be some kind young Sinner, one that has Generosity enough to give a favour handsomely to one that can ask it discreetly, one that has Wit enough to manage an Intrigue of Love—oh how civil such a Wench is, to a Man that does her the Honour to marry her.

Related Characters: Willmore (speaker), Hellena
Page Number: 220
Explanation and Analysis:

The jealous Angelica here attempts to force Willmore to promise that he will never marry another woman. In response, Willmore paints a verbal picture of a woman whom Angelica believes does not exist: a "young Sinner" who is generous, beautiful, discreet, and as witty as he himself. 

What Angelica does not understand, of course, is that Willmore has described Hellena, using both his wit and his sincere admiration for the slippery noblewoman to fool Angelica. Once again, we see both Willmore's good and bad intermingled. On one hand, he continues to use and deceive Angelica; on the other, he is clearly entranced by Hellena, and seems to recognize her as his true match. While his treatment of Angelica is contemptible, it is up for readers to decide whether or not Willmore redeems himself with his genuine love and admiration for Hellena. 

Act 5, Scene 1 Quotes

Nay, if we part so, let me die like a Bird upon a Bough, at the Sheriff’s Charge. By Heaven, both the Indies shall not buy thee from me. I adore thy Humour and will marry thee, and we are so one of one Humour, it must be a Bargain—give me thy Hand—and now let the blind ones (love and Fortune) do their worst.

Related Characters: Willmore (speaker), Hellena
Page Number: 243
Explanation and Analysis:

Reunited with Hellena, Willmore swears that he will marry her. Still as mercenary as ever, he proposes it as "a Bargain" to her, and swears that nothing will "buy thee from me." He wishes to marry her, he says, because they are "so of one Humour": both witty, passionate, and ultimately inconstant. 

Although the marriage of Hellena and Willmore represents a classic romantic comedy ending, it is unclear from this speech whether the couple will actually remain faithful to each other--or whether they even want to. The very "humour" (inner nature) that attracts them to each other has its roots in deception and rootlessness. Willmore loves Hellena because she constantly keeps him guessing, while Hellena loves Willmore because she must constantly chase and deceive him and order to keep him. They may be the perfect match, but it is highly doubtful that they will have the perfect marriage. 

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Hellena Character Timeline in The Rover

The timeline below shows where the character Hellena appears in The Rover. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 1
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A pair of Spanish sisters, Florinda and Hellena, bicker in their chamber. They are living in Naples, where it is Carnival time, under... (full context)
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Florinda says that she will not tell Hellena until Hellena is in love herself. Hellena retorts that she has not been in love,... (full context)
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Hellena goes on, asking if Florinda loves one of two Spanish noblemen: Don Antonio the viceroy’s... (full context)
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Hellena applauds Florinda for her defiance, saying that she loves “mischief,” as most women do. She... (full context)
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Florinda once again chides Hellena for being so interested in love when she is destined to be a nun. Hellena... (full context)
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Florinda tells Hellena that she cannot be so bold, but Hellena says that she has beauty, youth, and... (full context)
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Hellena asks once again how Florinda knows Belvile. She replies that during a recent war in... (full context)
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Hellena jumps in, saying that the “Jewels” Belvile has to offer are just as valuable as... (full context)
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Hellena expresses disbelief that Don Pedro will force her into a nunnery and force Florinda into... (full context)
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Hellena twists Don Pedro’s words, speculating about the luxurious life to which he refers. She speculates... (full context)
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For all Hellena’s jibes, Don Pedro asserts that Florinda will marry Don Vincentio no matter what. When Hellena... (full context)
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Enraged, Don Pedro tells Callis to lock Hellena up, keeping her from the Carnival until it comes time for her to become a... (full context)
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Don Pedro, meanwhile, orders Callis to watch Hellena closely, while confiding in Florinda that he has been speaking of his father’s will rather... (full context)
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...she will not be able to escape Don Antonio, who is both young and rich. Hellena, meanwhile, begs Callis not to lock her away. When Callis says that she must obey... (full context)
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When Callis asks what she intends to do at the Carnival, Hellena replies that she will act “mad” but remain “innocent.” She asks Florinda to accompany her,... (full context)
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Florinda and Hellena decide to attend Carnival, accompanied by their cousin Valeria; they persuade Callis to go with... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 2
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Florinda, Hellena, and Valeria enter, disguised as gypsies. Callis, who has let them come to Carnival after... (full context)
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Hellena immediately notices Belvile and points him out to Florinda. She notices Willmore too, calling him... (full context)
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Believing Hellena to be a gypsy, Willmore begins to banter and flirt with her, calling her a... (full context)
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Hellena retorts that she means to die a virgin, and Willmore tells her that she will... (full context)
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After Hellena informs him that he will need to storm a nunnery to win her, Willmore tells... (full context)
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Asking Hellena to give him “Credit for a Heart,” Willmore asserts that he wishes to come first... (full context)
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Hellena responds disdainfully, asking if he wishes her to be guilty either of premarital sex or... (full context)
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As Hellena and Willmore banter, Lucetta and Sancho plot—she is a prostitute and he is her pimp.... (full context)
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...the letter may be a trap, but the cavalier opens it anyway. Meanwhile, Willmore and Hellena have made plans to meet each other later in the evening; Hellena makes Willmore promise... (full context)
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...has found such a willing woman, and Frederick responds by asking him about the gypsy (Hellena) with whom they saw him speak. Willmore replies that he suspects her of being chaste... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
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...but then reflects that if he had, he would not have met his “little Gypsy” (Hellena), whom he has not been able to stop thinking about, much to his dismay. He... (full context)
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Belvile warns Willmore against falling in love with Hellena, saying that she is most likely too highborn to give her honor to Willmore. Expressing... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
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Florinda, Valeria, and Hellena enter the same street on which Angelica’s house is located later in the afternoon so... (full context)
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...a stranger (Frederick) his fortune but grew nervous and almost dropped her disguise completely. As Hellena begins to long for Willmore, Florinda and Valeria begin to mock her. Hellena acknowledges that... (full context)
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Valeria speculates about Willmore’s promiscuity, and Hellena realizes that he may not come to meet her. Wondering what she is feeling, she... (full context)
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Hellena responds almost blithely, saying that she resolved to fall in love, and now she has.... (full context)
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Florinda expresses surprise and dismay that Hellena has learned to love so quickly. Hellena begins to describe what she thought love would... (full context)
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When Florinda once again calls Hellena mad, her sister responds sharply, telling Florinda that she, too, in in love and must... (full context)
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Noticing the Englishmen enter without her “inconstant” Wilmore, Hellena urges Valeria and Florinda to hide with her in order to see what is going... (full context)
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...been kind to Willmore, while Belvile worries that the courtesan has murdered his friend. Aside, Hellena’s heart speeds up as she realizes that they are speaking of “her Man.” (full context)
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Willmore enters, having just exited Angelica’s house; Hellena, still hidden, responds with anger. As Belvile questions him, Willmore replies triumphantly, hyperbolically praising Angelica’s... (full context)
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Hellena immediately comes out of hiding, tapping him on the back and asking if this is... (full context)
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Asking how she may reward his devotion, Hellena takes up Willmore’s flirtatious tone. He, in turn, asks if he may see her face.... (full context)
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Taking her boldness to a new level, Hellena sarcastically tells Willmore that she knows soldiers (like himself) to be strict and chaste men.... (full context)
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Hellena counterattacks, telling Willmore that she is as inconstant as he is, and that she does... (full context)
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Hellena tells Wilmore that they are alike, destined to fool men and women into loving them.... (full context)
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...best of her if she stays. She orders one of her bravoes, Sebastian, to learn Hellena’s identity, and commands Biskey to bring Willmore to her. (full context)
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Meanwhile, Hellena tells Willmore that she will unmask again only if he reveals what he was doing... (full context)
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...which as it turns out contains a picture of her. Wilmore, too, bids goodbye to Hellena, saying that he must see her tomorrow. (full context)
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Willmore praises Hellena’s features and wit, while Belvile does the same for Florinda, cursing his own modesty; the... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 2
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...offstage, with Sebastian following him. After they both are gone, Angelica reveals that she knows Hellena’s identity as Don Pedro’s sister, and believes Willmore to be in love with the noblewoman.... (full context)
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Angelica remains furious, accusing Willmore of courting Hellena for her two hundred thousand-crown fortune, and revealing that she saw him flirting with the... (full context)
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Hellena herself enters, disguised as a boy. She recognizes both Angelica and Willmore; Moretta notices her,... (full context)
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Angelica refuses to speak to Willmore, who offers to leave. Meanwhile Hellena approaches, anxious to torment Willmore for his faithlessness. Secretly, Willmore plots to escape Angelica so... (full context)
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Hellena goes to speak to Angelica as Willmore repeatedly attempts to sneak off. The disguised girl... (full context)
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Continuing on, Hellena relates how the Englishman jilted this noblewoman at the altar. Willmore now believes that she... (full context)
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Perceiving the hurt in Angelica’s eyes, Hellena offers to stop her tale, but Angelica, hoping to quench her own love for Willmore,... (full context)
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Consumed with jealousy, Angelica asks if Willmore is the man of whom Hellena speaks. He attempts to defend himself and paces around the stage; the two women follow... (full context)
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With Angelica distracted, Willmore asks Hellena who her supposed mistress is, and how he can find her house. Hellena is amazed... (full context)
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Breaking the cycle at last, Angelica asks Hellena to look into Willmore’s face and identify him. As their eyes meet, the cavalier at... (full context)
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Willmore announces to Angelica that he has uncovered Hellena’s plot; Hellena worries that he has seen through her disguise and begs him not to... (full context)
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After Willmore tells Hellena to return to her supposed mistress with a scornful message, Angelica attempts to extract a... (full context)
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Sebastian enters, announcing Don Antonio; hearing his name, Hellena flees, believing that he may see through her disguise. Angelica resolves to go see the... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 3
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...never fear. She reveals that she is half in love (with Frederick), and wishes that Hellena were there as well. Florinda recalls that she left the house by pretending to go... (full context)
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...Englishman, ever lustful, continues to misinterpret her backward glances as flirtation. Both characters exit. Next Hellena enters, accompanied by a page. Seeing that Willmore is pursuing a woman, she asks her... (full context)
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...with an open door rather than fall into his hands. As she exits, Valeria and Hellena’s page enters; Valeria reveals that Florinda has just entered Belvile’s lodgings, and wonders if she... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 1
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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... (full context)
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Hellena asks whether he would have left her behind, and Willmore swears that they will never... (full context)
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Both Hellena and Willmore agree that they should lose no time, and the cavalier proposes that they... (full context)
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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,... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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Don Pedro asks if Hellena really intends to give up the holiness of nunhood in favor of the sins of... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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...at last appeases him by saying that he looks like a cavalier. Blunt then greets Hellena and asks her to forgive his Spanish clothes. (full context)
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...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... (full context)