The Rover takes place at Carnival time, and brims with masks and disguises, from the gypsy costumes that Hellena, Florinda, and Valeria wear to Don Antonio’s and Don Pedro’s comedy of mistaken identities to Lucetta’s robbery of Blunt. Fascinatingly, however, the play does not take a moral stance on disguise, since it is used by moral and immoral characters alike. The play does, however, create a strong connection between disguise and love, the prevalence of masks and lies implying that while deceit may often be harmful, some measure of deceit may be necessary in order to help love flourish.
Of course, deceit, disguise, and the confusion they cause also illuminate interesting issues surrounding identity. While some characters (such as the honorable Florinda and Belvile) are terrible at dissembling, others (Hellena and Willmore) excel at it. Identity is fluid for these figures; they can try on many different roles until they find one that fits. Other characters may engage in amusing mishaps involving mistaken identity, but for the true masters of deceit, identity is something that can be shaped and formed at will. The smartest characters—Hellena and Willmore—are also the best actors. The prevalence of deceit and disguise is therefore also meta-theatrical, exists on a plane outside the plot of the play, because it reminds the audience that they are watching a play, that all of these “people” on stage are in fact wearing “disguises” as they act their roles.
Deceit and Disguise ThemeTracker
Deceit and Disguise Quotes in The Rover
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
He’s gone, and in this Ague of My Soul
The shivering Fit returns;
Oh with what willing haste he took his leave,
As if the long’d for Minute were arriv’d,
Of some blest Assignation.
In vain I have consulted all my Charms,
In vain this Beauty priz’d, in vain believ’d
My eyes cou’d kindle any lasting Fires.
I had forgot my Name, my Infamy,
And the Reproach that Honour lays on those
That dare pretend a sober passion here.
Nice Reputation, tho it leave behind
More Virtues than inhabit where that dwells,
Yet that once gone, those virtues shine no more.
—Then since I am not fit to belov’d,
I am resolv’d to think on a Revenge
On him that sooth’d me thus to my undoing.
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
Cruel, adsheartlikins as a Gally-slave, or a Spanish Whore: Cruel, yes, I will kiss and beat thee all over; kiss, and see thee all over; thou shalt lie with me too, not that I care for the Injoyment, but to let you see I have ta’en deliberated Malice to thee, and will be revenged on one Whore for the Sins of another; I will smile and deceive thee, flatter thee, and beat thee, kiss and swear, and lye to thee, imbrace thee and rob thee, as she did me, fawn on thee, and strip thee stark naked, then hang thee out at my Window by the Heels, with a Paper of scurvey Verses fasten’d to thy Breast, in praise of damnable Women—Come, come along.
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.