Aphra Behn's English Feminism: Wit and Satire

By Dolors Altaba-Artal | Go to book overview

Coda

ALTHOUGH APHRA BEHN WORKED INTENSIVELY FOR ONLY THREE decades, her path in English letters epitomizes the rapidly changing attitudes of the period. She was able to follow the contemporary trends, clever enough to change her style and mode according to the demands of the audience or readership, and audacious enough to adapt foreign voices. She drew not only from English literature but from French and Italian models as well. Nevertheless, it was the Spanish source that offered her a completely sound, exceptionally good, well-balanced, basic material she could mold into new combinations to produce new texts.

If literature is a continuum, it should not appear strange that all the major writers in most cultures have borrowed from their predecessors. As our modern languages stem from other languages that are supposedly branches of the Indo-European, many of our tales can be traced back through the Middle East to India. Behn, like all good writers, took advantage of a literary legacy. She started her career as a writer by translating and adapting Calderón's masterpiece La vida es sueño for a second plot. The Spanish source in The Young King; or The Mistake is beyond questioning; yet, among her contemporaries, imitation was not the discussed issue but taken for granted. Her career as a playwright began when The Amorous Prince; or, The Curious Husband was presented on the stage in 1672, and again, the second plot is a direct rendering, this time from Cervantes's novel El curioso impertinente. Probably because of the notoriety Don Quixote enjoyed throughout Europe and in England, the play was well accepted as an entertaining tragicomedy.

As her career advanced, Behn proceeded to combine the Spanish voice with more and more subtlety, and when she changed her writing genre from drama to the novel, she altered it even more. Undoubtedly, María de Zayas's Love Novels and Deceits provided Behn with a rich source for her prose fiction. In Zayas, Behn recognized a predecessor whose wit, feminism, and language

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Aphra Behn's English Feminism: Wit and Satire
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 7
  • Preface 9
  • 1- Introduction- Before Aphra Behn 15
  • 2- Theology to Humanism 26
  • 3- Spanish Tale and Echoes 46
  • 4- Cape and Sword Plays 64
  • 5- The Heyday of Restoration Comedy 89
  • 6- Novelistic Drama 107
  • 7- Aphra Behn''s First Novel 127
  • 8- Aphra Behn''s "Nun" Novels 146
  • 9- Aphra Behn''s "Mistake" Novels 164
  • 10- Aphra Behn''s "Unfortunate" Novels 182
  • Coda 202
  • Notes 206
  • Bibliography 220
  • Index 226
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