The Rover

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Carnival Symbol Analysis

Carnival Symbol Icon
Italian cities such as Venice and Naples (where The Rover takes place) were famed for their Carnivals, huge, city-wide festivals during which many of the rules of ordinary life were temporarily suspended. Within the play, Carnival symbolizes a world of inverted values and freedom in which noblewomen can roam the streets and impoverished cavaliers can court them and win their hands. Yet the world of the Carnival—a world without consequences—is not without its dark side. Predators such as Willmore and Blunt take advantage of the free-for-all atmosphere in order to accost and even assault women, while belligerent men often end up dueling each other on the streets. In depicting both the positive and dark sides of Carnival, Behn is displaying both the comic and the troubling aspects of the topsy-turvy, consequence-free genre of Restoration Comedy.

Carnival Quotes in The Rover

The The Rover quotes below all refer to the symbol of Carnival. 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:
Gender Roles Theme Icon
). 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

Love and Mirth are my Business in Naples; and if I mistake not the Place, here’s an excellent Market for Chapmen of my Humour.

Related Characters: Willmore (speaker), Belvile, Frederick, Ned Blunt
Related Symbols: Carnival
Page Number: 166
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage introduces Willmore, the dashing but promiscuous "Rover" of the title. Unlike the proper Belvile or the contemptible Ned and Blunt, Willmore is both attractive and immoral. He is witty and daring, but also views women as objects to be used for pleasure and then thrown away. 

It is important to note, in this passage, that Willmore uses the word "love" to actually mean "lust." He means to physically pursue women, but certainly does not intend to lose his heart to any one of them. He has confused physical desire with emotional feeling, and will continue to do so over the course of the play.

Willmore also introduces a second vital idea: the link between love and money. Throughout the play, we will witness how characters think of love as something that can be bought and sold. By referring to Naples as a "Market" in which he will be able to take part in the "Business" of "Love and Mirth," Willmore reveals that he fully buys into this mindset. 

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. 

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Carnival Symbol Timeline in The Rover

The timeline below shows where the symbol Carnival appears in The Rover. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 1
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...Florinda and Hellena, bicker in their chamber. They are living in Naples, where it is Carnival time, under the care of their brother Don Pedro, as their noble father is currently... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Deceit and Disguise Theme Icon
Class and Money Theme Icon
Don Pedro enters holding a mask for Carnival, along with his servant Stephano. He brings along with him Callis, the sisters’ governess. He... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Love vs. Lust Theme Icon
Deceit and Disguise Theme Icon
Enraged, Don Pedro tells Callis to lock Hellena up, keeping her from the Carnival until it comes time for her to become a nun. Hellena retorts that she would... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...act “as shall become your Sister,” and Don Pedro exits with Stephano to attend the Carnival. (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Deceit and Disguise Theme Icon
...continues pleading, saying that she will become a nun if only she can first experience Carnival. (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Love vs. Lust Theme Icon
Deceit and Disguise Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Deceit and Disguise Theme Icon
Florinda and Hellena decide to attend Carnival, accompanied by their cousin Valeria; they persuade Callis to go with them. Stephano enters, telling... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 2
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Love vs. Lust Theme Icon
...Frederick. Frederick teases Belvile for his melancholy, saying that it is uncalled for, especially during Carnival time, unless he is in love. Belvile says that he made no new conquests in... (full context)
Love vs. Lust Theme Icon
Deceit and Disguise Theme Icon
...that he is traveling on business, but has come ashore to enjoy himself at the Carnival. (full context)
Deceit and Disguise Theme Icon
...another series of puns. As the revelers dance, the group marvels at the madness of Carnival time. (full context)
Act 3, Scene 4
Deceit and Disguise Theme Icon
...their quarrel, a group of soldiers enter, having heard that there were swords drawn during Carnival (a terrible crime). Recognizing Don Antonio, and seeing that he is hurt, they believe that... (full context)