How are men portrayed in The Rover? Discuss stock characters and stereotypes of male behavior.
The male characters in AphraBehn’s The Rover are representative of the various shades of male sexuality. The character of Blunt for example may be symbolic of the Virgin as we see that he is somewhat innocent, naïve and that he puts women on a pedestal. He is fooled by Lucetta and when he falls down the gutter he realizes his own foolishness. On the other hand Belvile is the sensitize caring male while Willmore is the playboy wandering from one women to another
The character of Blunt begins to change in Act III scene ii when he is waiting to have sex with Lucetta. Through the asides we can see the sincerity of his emotions and his virginity is also established through , “this one Nights enjoy- / ment with her, will be worth all the days I ever past in Essex” (III.ii.31-2. Since he is a virgin he does not think of the consequences of the situation and since he the only one with money that too skews his judgment, he assumes that since he has money he can possess a married woman. He is arrogant enough to assume that Lucettawold move to England with him when he says
Egad I’ll / shew her Husband a Spanish trick; send him / out of the World and Marry her: she’s damnably in Love with me, and will ne’re mind / Settlements, and so there’s that sav’d.
The combination of his arrogant greed and annoying innocence yields little to no sympathy for him as Lucetta performs her coup. Additionally, the irony of Blunt’s character is that he believes he is a caring, giving, sensitive man, when he is actually the stingiest character of the play. Blunt separates himself from the idea of someone cruel and money-hungry, like Jews were considered at the time, in his proclamation, “what dost thou take me / for? A Jew?An insensible heathen” (III.ii.53-4). He tries to convince himself, and Lucetta, that he is different from such people, when in fact, the entire situation, along with his later attempt to rape Florinda, do nothing more than further elaborate upon his childishness.
Blunt’s monologue as the bed descends into the sewers is a testament to his naivety. When he is unable to find Lucetta in the sheets, he thinks she is playing a humorous trick on him that they will later laugh at, “a pretty Love-trick this — how / she’l laugh at me anon” (III.ii.69-70). The realization that he is being truly tricked never occurs to Blunt because of the arrogance and overconfidence he has for his manhood. However, the scene itself desexualizes him, observed not only by Lucetta tricking him, but by the very act of the bed descending into the sewers. The bed is supposed to be the means of confirming Blunt’s stature in male pride, but rather than experiencing an orgasm that will allow Blunt to touch the sky, he experiences a ruse that throws him into the sewers. When Blunt finally understands what has happened, he calls out for his heroes of male promiscuity, the “Dogs! / Rogues! Pimps” (III.ii.78-9), that he previously tried to distance himself from by stating that he would not be false or cruel (III.ii.53-57). Additionally, the notion of Blunt’s greed and need for social approval is apparent when Lucetta and her men rummage through Blunt’s belongings. The amount of wealth that he carries on his person is far too much for a normal man to have if not trying to seek social, and even sexual, approval of those he encounters:
A rich Coat! … a / Gold watch!—a Purse … Gold!—at least / Two Hundred Pistols!—a bunch of Diamond / Rings! And one with the family Arms!—a Gold / Box!—with a Medal of his king! … theWasteband of his / Breeches have a Mine of Gold! (III.ii.90-98).
Upon losing all his wealth, and thus his only means of pretending to be a man, Blunt rises from the sewers. Having now experienced a type of anti-baptism, he realizes the truth that his inexperience has thus far shrouded; the reality that “what a Dog [he] was … / to believe in Woman” (III.ii.128-9). He further comes to understand that he has perceived the world with the eyes of a naïve child when he refers to himself as a “cursed Puppy” (III.ii.132), rather than a dog as he initially did when coming to understand his ignorance. Blunt’s only folly in this situation is that regardless of the epiphany that he undergoes, rather than attempt to redeem his person, he seeks revenge on an innocent woman, thus becoming even more despicable than before.
In his attempted rape of Florinda, Blunt has developed into a cruel-minded and spiteful individual, now referring to women as “a she Creature” (IV.iv.34) rather than adoring names like “sheartlikens” (III.ii.11) or “sweetest” (IV.ii.68) as he had during his courting of Lucetta. The only reason that he does not condemn Florinda to his vengeance is due to his fear of the repercussions of raping a “Maid of quality … [rather than] a Harlot” (IV.iv.171-2). In this way, Blunt is still in the same state of mind, and has not matured or grown as a man, but rather sunk lower than he had previously. The same attributes can be attached to Willmore for attempting to rape Florinda, but even in the act, Willmore is drunk, and thus not of a sound mind. Additionally, though Willmore is such a disgraceful man to try to rape Florinda, and spend his nights trying to bed a whore without paying the fee, as seen in his courting of Angelica in act II, scene ii, he does change his manners to win the heart of Hellena. At first, Willmore desires only to bed Hellena, without the prospect of a long-term relationship. However, in the end, to appease her desires and express his true affection, Willmore exhibits how much he has matured, and agrees to wed Hellena, “I adore thy Humour and will marry thee” (V.i.581). Willmore’s metamorphosis is also shown in his realization that he has loved Hellena even when thinking her only a gypsy, “since I lov’d her before I either / knew her Birth or Name, I must pursue my / resolution, and marry her” (V.i.640-2). This same type of sacrifice for the heart of a woman, regardless of what benefits one would have for courting her, cannot be performed by Blunt. It is for this reason that though everyone else is coming to find their life-partner in the end, with Belville and Florinda, Willmore and Hellena, and Antonio and Angellica, Blunt remains alone. His is a notion entirely built from the idea that a true man is only that which has acquired great wealth, sexual experience, and the approval of society. Since all of these things are taken from him by women in the play, the story concludes with Blunt desexualized, penniless, and emotionally broken, testifying to one of the play’s morals: a true man is one who is willing to sacrifice everything they are and have for the love of a woman, regardless of what that women is capable of providing him.
Blunt’s fall is his own fault as he is incapable of seeing the realities of his situation. With Lucetta, his overwhelming anxiety to finally lose his virginity leads to a horrible ordeal that, for another more experienced, less greedy man, would have been an easily predictable ruse. The trick on his promiscuity only led to more trouble with his metaphoric anti-baptism. Having been thrown into the sewers, and learning the truth that some women in the world are as corrupt as he, he develops into a rapist that will accost the first woman who happens along his path. Even when he is in the midst of vengeance, the only saving grace for Florinda is Blunt’s fear of what the other men would think of him should he hurt a fine woman, rather than the whore he thought her to be. Ultimately, Blunt is incapable of growing or conforming to the standard of a descent man, and therefore remains isolated from the true love that his peers are capable of finding.