Satire in the works of Aphra Behn



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With few exceptions, both contemporary and later critics have viewed the work of Aphra Behn (1640-1689) as that of a woman interesting because of the accidence of her sex. She was a figure of intrigue, actively involved in the political and religious turmoil of her times. This study relates her political and religious convictions to her artistry, demonstrating elements of satire in her work which are the expression of those convictions. Understanding Mrs. Behn's political and religious beliefs and fitting them into the cultural milieu in which she moved delineates the bias which finds expression in her dramatic characterizations in particular. The general political and religious undercurrent through the body of her work, both dramatic and fictional, culminates in her use of drama in the service of the crown during the foment around the Popish Plot incident. Examination of four plays (The Rover I, 1677, The Rover II, 1681, The Roundheads, 1681, and The City Heiress, 1682) will show how her particular prejudices affected her artistry.