The Roles of Women during the 18th Century and How They Were Portrayed in Literature

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The Roles of Women during the 18th Century and How They Were Portrayed in  Literature



During the eighteenth century, women’s roles in society were categorized as domestic. The roles of women were strictly defined in areas such as “work, family, and society according to ideas of what is appropriate for the sex” (Easton 389).  These roles gave women fewer career choices, loveless marriages with few rights and many, many domestic duties (Hawthorne et al. 34). Many women writers, who lived during the 18th century, wrote about the experiences that women were faced with during that time.  Chief among those voices was Aphra Behn, who attempted to come to grips with the role of women during this period in society. One of Behn’s most famous plays, “The Rover”, depicted her views on how women were portrayed in society during the 18th century.  This paper will present the roles women were forced to carry out during the 19th century. This paper will relate the roles of the women characters in the play “The Rover” to the roles of women during the 18th century.  This novel will be used like a reference to depict how Aphra Behn used her artistic and literary skills to express her feelings about the gender roles of women during the 18th century.




Aphra Behn, a controversial and female author, is one of the notable literary critics throughout the centuries (Canfield et al, 221). The literary plays she documented during the period of restoration were very popular on the stage. Similarly, her poetry and fiction were successful. Gallagher (97) asserted “the feminine interest now giving importance to Behn as a pioneer in professionalism, in women, began to emerge.” Moreover, she used her literary work to address politics, social commentary, money, sex, power, relationships, ideal and virtue. However, her major writing focus was on gender roles.

The essay will examine the of gender roles through the through the work of Behn of “the rover”. According to Hutner (198), the play of “the rover” criticized the arranged marriages through the inclusion of societal criticism. To understand the play of “The Rover” better, it is of great importance to understand the relationship of her life to her writing, her society she lived and perception of the women’s roles. The rover provides an oral criticism of the expectations of the society, denounces ideas of forced marriages and lastly the accompanying authority of the parents.

The rover is about of sisters’ Florinda, and Hellena who are making an attempt  of an escape from the fates of their male members of their family have decided for them, in addition to a band of, English cavaliers in Naples who are burnished at the carnival time. Link (109) observed that men are promiscuous and gay; there is the loyal Belvile, Wilmore, the rover, blunt and the negative Fredrick, the low comedian squire of the country. Belvile met and rescued the Florinda from being attacked by Naples previously, and eventually fell in love with her. Forinda, on the other hand, is destined for a pre arranged marriage. However, Hellena is destined for a convent. The escape of the sisters to the carnival is where they meet the cavaliers. Furthermore, Florinda loves Belivele and Hellena and Wilmore fall in love. However, Angelina Bance, the gorgeous courtesan complicates things. She is also in love with Wilmore although she has Pedro, the brother to Hellena and Florinda and Antonio, one of the potential future husbands of Florinda fighting to get her attention.

The plot of the play has complicated series masking, intrigues, and overall character confusion. There is love, rape, sex, anger, betrayal, jealousy, despair and joy. The play finally ends with marriages of Wilmore and Hellena and Belvile and Wilmore.

According to Markley (68), the main conflict in the play of the rover originates from the arranged marriage idea. This is attributed to the own experience of Behn and her marriage which was arranged and unhappy. De.............

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