The Rover

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Themes and Colors
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Love vs. Lust Theme Icon
Deceit and Disguise Theme Icon
Class and Money Theme Icon
Wit and Language Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Rover, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Class and Money Theme Icon

Although not a particularly romantic topic, the issue of money runs throughout The Rover. The cavaliers constantly bemoan the fact that they do not have sufficient funds, while Don Pedro picks a husband for his sister based almost solely upon fortune. Angelica, too, is obsessed with money, and must crucially decide whether she will give her heart to Willmore for free, or hold out for the highest bidder. In fact, the themes of money and love often become intertwined in the play, as characters speak about purchasing love, or giving each other credit. The world in which they live is a capitalistic one, and money pervades even the most emotional of issues.

Class, meanwhile, creates even deeper issues, since it is the main barometer by which men decide whether or not a woman is worthy of respect. When Willmore attempts to rape Florinda, he does so because he does not know that she is a woman of “quality,” and the same pattern occurs later in the play with Florinda, Blunt, and Frederick. Hellena, meanwhile, is able to attract Willmore because, although she is dressed in a low class costume, she displays noble manners (and because she has a large fortune). For the same reason, Angelica will never be truly valued; for all her riches and beauty, she is still a prostitute, and therefore at a lower rung on the social ladder.

In this way class and money subtly shape many of the interactions within the play, exerting their influence even when the characters do not explicitly mention them.

Class and Money ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Class and Money appears in each scene of The Rover. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Class and Money Quotes in The Rover

Below you will find the important quotes in The Rover related to the theme of Class and Money.
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. 


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Act 2, Scene 1 Quotes

How wondrous fair she is—a Thousand Crowns a Month—by Heaven as many Kingdoms were too little. A plague of this Poverty—of which I ne’er complain, but when it hinders my Approach to Beauty, which Virtue ne’er could purchase.

Related Characters: Willmore (speaker), Angelica
Related Symbols: Angelica’s Picture
Page Number: 177
Explanation and Analysis:

Willmore now becomes entranced by a picture of the courtesan Angelica--a highly expensive prostitute who costs "a Thousand Crowns a Month" to employ. Once again, we witness how closely Willmore associates love and money. By saying that Angelica is worth even more than a thousand crowns, Willmore is paying her the highest compliment he can imagine. 

It is important to note the difference between Willmore's emotions towards Hellena, and his attraction to Angelica. He feels strongly about Hellena without ever having seen her face; meanwhile, he desires Angelica without ever actually having met her. Yet in both cases, he still views the women as objects to be won or "purchase[d]" rather than as actual people. 

Oh! Fear me not, shall I not venture where a Beauty calls? A lovely charming Beauty? For fear of danger! When by Heaven there’s none so great as to long for her, whilst I want Money to purchase her.

Related Characters: Willmore (speaker), Angelica
Page Number: 183
Explanation and Analysis:

As he incites a fight outside of Angelica's home, Willmore here articulates what is essentially his life's philosophy: that he will do anything for "Beauty," and that if he cannot "purchase" Angelica's attentions, there is nothing "so great as to long for her." This obsession with female beauty in fact governs most of his actions in the play.

By now, the fickle Willmore seems to have utterly forgotten Hellena. He is entranced by Angelica's beauty and her price, and enjoys the idea of fighting other men for her. All of his worst impulses have come together in his quest to win Angelica at any cost, and he returns to his stereotypical role as the charming but immoral libertine.

Act 2, Scene 2 Quotes

Yes, I am poor—but I’m a Gentleman,
And one that scorns this Baseness which you practise.
Poor as I am, I would not sell my self,
No, not to gain your charming high-priz’d Person.
Tho I admire you strangely for your Beauty,
Yet I contemn your Mind.
—And yet I wou’d at any rate enjoy you;
At your own rate—but cannot—See here
The only Sum I can command on Earth;
I know not where to eat when this is gone:
Yet such a Slave I am to Love and Beauty,
This last reserve I’ll sacrifice to enjoy you.
—Nay, do not frown, I know you are to be bought,
And wou’d be bought by me, by me,
For a mean trifling Sum, if I could pay it down.
Which happy knowledge I will still repeat,
And lay it to my Heart, it has a Virtue in’t,
And soon will cure those Wounds your Eyes have made.
—And yet—there’s something so divinely powerful there—
Nay, I will gaze—to let you see my Strength.

Related Characters: Willmore (speaker), Angelica
Page Number: 185
Explanation and Analysis:

In this long speech, Willmore gathers all of his rhetorical powers of persuasion in order to convince Angelica of his sudden love for her. This passage exemplifies both the good and the bad of Willmore. On one hand, he is obsessed with money and with the idea of "conquering" women. Superficially, he thinks that lust and love (and, in a way, business) are one and the same, and he prizes beauty above all else. 

On the other hand, Willmore is not simply a passionate man, but a deeply eloquent one. He explains to Angelica that he would "sacrifice" everything for her, chiding her for wounding him with her eyes, even as he praises her "divinely powerful" gaze.

Given Willmore's skillful command over language, combined with his physical bravery and his sincere passion for living, it makes sense that both Hellena and Angelica would fall in love with him. While he may be an immoral rake, he does not pretend to be anything but what he is: a poor yet dashing man who lives by his wits, and who will stop at nothing to possess the various objects of his affections. 

But Madam, I have been so often cheated
By perjur’d, soft, deluding Hypocrites,
That I’ve no Faith left for the cozening Sex,
Especially for Women of your trade.

Related Characters: Willmore (speaker), Angelica
Page Number: 187
Explanation and Analysis:

As Willmore continues to wrestle with his feelings for Angelica, he also reveals his own hypocrisy. As a poor cavalier with expensive tastes, Willmore must marry a rich woman (like Hellena) if he is to continue leading his extravagant life. Yet despite his need to exchange love for money, he condemns Angelica for doing the same, telling her that he cannot trust "Women of your trade"--prostitutes--because they are "deluding Hypocrites" who deceive him.

The calculating and aggressive Willmore here plays the victim, acting as if he has been wronged by mercenary women who use and abuse him. In fact, however, Willmore is often on the deceptive end himself, using whatever tactics necessary in order to persuade women to sleep with him. He seems to have conveniently forgotten this fact, however, in his strange but effective seduction of Angelica. 

Act 3, Scene 3 Quotes

Florinda: I’ll cry Murder, Rape, or any thing, if you do not instantly let me go.
Willmore: A Rape! Come, come, you lie, you Baggage, you lie: What, I’ll warrant you would fain have the World believe now that you are not so forward as I. No, not you—why at this time of Night was your Cobweb-door set open, dear Spider—but to catch Flies?—Hah come—or I shall be damnably angry…

Related Characters: Willmore (speaker), Florinda (speaker)
Page Number: 202
Explanation and Analysis:

As a drunken and aggressive Willmore attacks the helpless Florinda, audiences and readers alike must confront the darkest side of the world of The Rover: the threat of sexual violence.

In a world in which men are encouraged to be violent, dominant, and sex-obsessed, while women are forced to be meek and submissive (while also guarding their virtues), sexual violence is a real and present danger. What makes this instance so upsetting, however, is that it is our hero, Willmore, who is attempting to rape the virtuous Florinda. His charming wit has transformed into misogynistic violence, as he asserts that Florinda left the gate of her home open in order to "catch" men like him. 

The truth, of course, is that Florinda has done nothing wrong, while Willmore has crossed the line from amusing rake into aggressive predator. In making her hero attempt to engage in a truly evil act, Aphra Behn is displaying how blurry that line truly is, and how quickly the men of this society can transform into violent and brutal aggressors. 

Act 3, Scene 4 Quotes

Belvile: Damn your debaucht Opinion: tell me, Sot, hadst thou so much sense and light about thee to distinguish her to be a Woman, and could’st not see something about her Face and Person, to strike an awful Reverence into thy Soul?
Willmore: Faith no, I consider’d her as mere a Woman as I could wish.

Related Characters: Willmore (speaker), Belvile (speaker), Florinda
Page Number: 204
Explanation and Analysis:

Enraged by his friend's attempt to violate his beloved, Belvile confronts Willmore, demanding to know why he attempted to rape Florinda. He asserts that Florinda's goodness and virtue must have shown in her "Face and Person," and that Willmore should have shown "Reverence" to such a chaste and noble (and wealthy) woman. 

Willmore, however, responds that he did not see any such signs about her; and that, instead, he "consider'd her as mere a Woman" as he could want. What he means, essentially, is that in his drunken and sexually aggressive state, women become interchangeable to him. He did not care what Florinda looked like or who she was; he cared only that she was a female, and therefore an object for him to conquer and possess. Once again, we see the darkness and the misogyny that underly Willmore's supposedly amusing antics. 

Act 4, Scene 2 Quotes

Oh, name not such mean Trifles.—Had I given him all
My Youth has earn’d from Sin,
I had not lost a Thought nor Sigh upon’t.
But I have given him my eternal Rest,
My whole Repose, my future Joys, my Heart;
My Virgin Heart. Moretta! Oh ‘tis gone!

Related Characters: Angelica (speaker), Willmore, Moretta
Page Number: 213
Explanation and Analysis:

Having fallen in love with Willmore, Angelica now finds that he is pursuing the rich, noble Hellena. A worldly woman, Angelica knows that even her beauty and sexual skills cannot compete with Hellena's high birth and riches. Bereft, she (like many of the characters) puts love in terms of money, realizing that she would rather have given him all her wealth ("all/ My Youth has earn'd from Sin") than her heart. She also refers to her heart as "Virgin"--for although Angelica has given her body to many men, Willmore is the first to whom she has given her love.

Although up until now we have viewed Angelica as a romantic rival for Hellena, here she becomes an example of the human cost of Willmore's rakishness. Giving in to his professions of love and his verbal eloquence, Angelica has bestowed her trust and her love on someone who did not truly deserve or desire it. 

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. 

Act 4, Scene 3 Quotes

A fine Lady-like Whore to cheat me thus, without affording me a Kindness for my Money, a Pox light on her, I shall never be reconciled to the Sex more, she has made me as faithless as a Physician, as uncharitable as a Churchman, and as ill-natur’d as a Poet. O how I’ll use all Women-kind hereafter! what wou’d I give to have one of ’em within my reach now! Any Mortal thing in Petticoats, kind Fortune, send me; and I’ll forgive thy last Night’s Malice

Related Characters: Ned Blunt (speaker), Lucetta
Page Number: 224
Explanation and Analysis:

Having been deceived by a woman who turned out to be a prostitute--and who stole all his money and his clothes--Ned Blunt is furious. A stupid but violent man, he decides that since his lover, Lucetta, was dishonest, all women are therefore so. In fact, he goes even beyond mistrust, vowing to "use" them violently and abusively from henceforth.

This misogynistic and deeply disturbing attitude is characteristic of the men in The Rover. Despite going to great lengths to seduce and possess women, the men also deeply distrust and even despise the opposite sex, believing that women are deceitful creatures out for all they can steal. Although this mindset may explain Blunt's hateful, violent treatment of women for the rest of the play, it by no means excuses his behavior. Instead, playwright Aphra Behn is offering her audience yet another example of how quickly a seemingly humorous objectification of women can turn into a misogynistic, violent worldview. 

I begin to suspect something; and ’twou’d anger us vilely to be truss’d up for a Rape upon a Maid of Quality, when we only believe we ruffle a Harlot.

Related Characters: Frederick (speaker), Florinda, Ned Blunt
Page Number: 228
Explanation and Analysis:

About to help Blunt to rape the helpless Florinda, Frederick pauses when Florinda desperately speaks Belvile's name. Although Blunt wishes to continue, convinced that Florinda is lying, Frederick orders him to stop. If they rape a virtuous (and wealthy) maiden, he explains, they will get in far more trouble than if they merely "ruffle[d] a Harlot."

Although it is this mindset that saves Florinda, we can also clearly see the deep immorality and misogyny that underlies it. The moment that Frederick believes that Florinda might have some value to another man--Belvile--he no longer wishes to violate her. To harm a highborn maiden in that manner would be a violation of both her betrothed (Belvile), as well as her noble father. In contrast, were Florinda a "harlot"--a lowborn woman or a prostitute--it would have been completely excusable, in Frederick's eyes, to rape her. 

This belief that women are only valuable in relation to men underlies much of the action of The Rover. Women must be protected by their fathers, brothers, and lovers, who vouch for their virtue and their nobility. Women who have no value to such men, or who sell their sexuality (as prostitutes do), are worthy of contempt at best, and sexual violence at worst. 

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.