• Aphra Behn

     Epistle to The Reader “The Dutch Lover”


    Preface to The Lucky Chance

    1640 — Birth of Aphra Johnson, second daughter of Bartholomew Johnson and Elizabeth Denham, baptized Dec. 14 at Harbledown outside of Canterbury. (Although there has been much controversy over the circumstances of Behn’s birth, this appears to be the most likely candidate.)

     1689 — Death of Aphra Behn, April 16. Buried in Westminster Abbey.

    She is considered the first Englishwomen writer.

    She wrote many plays for the king named as playwright’s  “royalties”.

    She wrote (factual fiction) before Defoe, Oroonoko and The Royal Slave.

    The Lucky Chance (1686) — Behn’s first play since the failure of Like Father Like Son, produced at Drury Lane (published 1687): She criticized the hypocrisy of her peer poets. How do the critics restrict literature to a certain form when it is rhetoric? Behn’s rhetoric, despite the unfamiliar language in which it is couched, should remind us of 20-century issues.

    The Dutch Lover (1673) — produced at Dorset Garden Theater; does not hold the stage until the third day (not published until 1677): She seems more intensely feminist in The Dutch Lover. She believes that if women where given the same chance that men had in education they would be equally same in literary heights/level.

    Aphra Behn was born in 1640; she was the first English woman, who earned her living by writing. She was the first professional writer and an early proponent of women’s rights. Behn was a novelist, dramatist, poet, essayist and spy. She was credited with influencing the development of the English novel toward realism. Behn’s writings catered to the libertine taste of king Charles the second and his supporters and she was a staunch “royalist”, a woman employed to spy on a disaffected English group in Antwerp. She called for pure freedom. Her works, especially her dramas, were usually coarse and witty farces, which focus on the amatory adventures of her freedom. She died in 1689, and was buried in Westminster Abeey.

    The Combination Idea:

    – Behn opposed Horace in one of his ideas, that says a work of poetry should be either comedy or tragedy, but not combine the two in one work. Behn does not believe in that and her works carried the combination of a comical and a serious plot (The Dutch Lover).

    The Purpose of Literature: 

    – She maintains that it was not the purpose of the stage to reform the audience’s morals but rather to entertain.

    – She rejects Horace’s Platitude that literature must instruct and delight saying that Poetry and drama rarely if never improves anyone’s morality.

    – Literature is a source of fun rather that a subject of wit, saying that she is not “subjective”.

    The Idea of Freedom: 

    – She calls for pure freedom and her dramatic efforts also contain some of Behn’s outspoken ideas on sexual freedom for men and women, which she continued to express through her career.

    – She thinks that presenting sexuality within literature does not undervalue it.

    – She defends herself against the charge of indecency, maintaining that her works are not more indecent than any other popular plays of the era.

    The Judgment of her Works: 

    – Critics found her works lewd and immoral so they attacked her and rejected her works.

    – Behn says that the judgments were totally based on sexual bias and not on her abilities of writing, proving her claims by maintaining that the critics who objected to the improprieties of her plays accepted similar things in a score of other plays written by men.

    – She retorted to the accusers who said that her works carry much coarseness and obscenity by saying that they are too “prudish”.


    – Aphra Behn refuses Horace’s idea of didacticism and believes that literature should only entertain.

    – Sexuality is a way of reaching entertainment, that’s why she presented it in her works.

    – All judgments of her works were based on sex biases and women were treated unfairly because of their sex.

    – She does not believe in specialism and thinks that the genres of Literature can be combined.

    Done by:

    Shaikha Al-Ostad and Esra’a Al-Qahtani.