Cape and Sword Plays: Aphra Behn's
The Dutch Lover, The Rover; or,
The Banished Cavaliers, and The Rover
(Part II) or, The Banished Cavaliers
DURING THE 1670s THE SPANISH STRAIN IN ENGLISH COMEDY BEcomes highly dialogized; the serious characteristics of the Spanish comedia are entirely overthrown. Stern, Spanish characters sketched as types become half-heroic, half-picaresque. Strict, Spanish codes of conduct, especially the code of honor, are transformed into opportunities for ludicrous “humors” behavior. And love intrigue, conducted to attain higher social position, loses its respectability. Plays with Spanish plots increase the action, add episodes, and build characters with better tempers. Night scenes become numerous and gain importance, which, in turn, increases the general confusion, the mistaken identities, and the terrible perils in which the characters find themselves. Nevertheless, there are no murders or bloodshed on stage. These traits grant such prominence to the plot that it ascends over rhetoric in the practice of dramaturgy. Except for Dryden's and Aphra Behn's comedies, the English plays with Spanish plots seldom have “memorable trials of wit in verbal exchange,” because “the multiplicity of episodes and elaboration of suspense rarely permitted leisurely conversation” (L, 69).
Once near translations of the comedia were outdated, “inventive variation on the Spanish plot by Dryden, and slightly later by Wycherley and Aphra Behn, resulted in better plays” (L, 67). Dryden's The Assignation; or, Love in a Nunnery (1672) reworks the comic plot of Calderón's Con quien vengo, vengo (With whom I come, I come). In Dryden's play, the established conventions of nocturnal setting, disguise, trick words, puns, comic dialogues,