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Aphra Behn's The City Heiress: feminism and the Dynamics of Popular Success on the Late Seventeenth-Century Stage.

For all the attention devoted to Aphra Behn's fiction, poetry, and plays over the last twenty-five years, few critics have focused on what remains a crucial problem in the scholarship on her work: the half-acknowledged tensions between her critical and commercial success on the Restoration stage and the current consensus that emphasizes her resistance to and protests against the endemic antifeminism of her time. (1) Paradoxically, the more critics insist on Behn's iconoclastic significance as a pioneering woman writer, the more difficult it seems to explain cogently the appeal of comedies, such as the second part of The Rover (1681), The Roundheads (1680), and The City Heiress (1682), that travesty "proper" feminine behavior, ridicule male authority figures, and debunk romantic love. Although the "resentful realism" of these comedies indicates that Behn and her audiences recognized only too well the constraints on women in late seventeenth-century society, her concern with restaging, in comic form, the emotional and financial difficulties of women's lives does not in itself account for her string of theatrical successes. (2) In their ironic treatment of female chastity and masculine constancy, as I have argued elsewhere, her comedies present a sophisticated and sympathetic understanding of the ideological complexities of women's existence in a misogynistic society. (3) By demystifying the masculinization of desire that constructs women only as sexual objects, Behn undermines the ideological assumptions and values that make female identity dependent on inviolate chastity and rigorous self-policing; she can then legitimate female desire by inverting the gender politics of her spectators' gaze and turn her libertine heroes into self-parodying objectifications of masculine desirability. (4) This process of defamiliarizing the gender dynamics of the wit comedy of the 1670s allows Behn to exploit the ironies that her regendering of desire creates: sexually compromised women become heroines; rich heiresses remain willfully blind to the consequences of their own desire; and wits become libertine performance artists who have limited success in manipulating women. In this respect, Behn implicates her audience--men and women alike--in participatory spectacles of ideological recognition and disavowal, and it is this complex process of interpellation that gives her comedies their ironic leverage. In The City Heiress, Behn brilliantly stages the comic struggles of her characters to come to terms with their cynical participation in social rituals that mirror those of fashionable Restoration society: her heroes and heroines recognize that they, like the audience, are complicit in the very practices and beliefs that frustrate their desires.

In this essay, I want to explore the complex relationship between Behn's protofeminist skepticism, her ironic questioning of love and marriage, and the popularity of a play that intrigued her contemporaries. In her preface to The Luckey Chance (1687), Behn responds to her critics by asserting that "unbyast Judges of Sense" have to acknowledge that she "had made as many good Comedies, as any one Man that has writ in our Age." (5) This claim is not an exaggeration, and by invoking the theatrical success of her "good Comedies;' she yokes the aesthetic quality of her plays to their commercial success. The City Heiress was singled out by her contemporaries as one of her "good" and particularly lucrative comedies, although comparatively few modern critics have discussed it at length. (6) The contemporary theater historian Gerard Langbaine remarked that the "play had the luck to be well receiv'd in the Town. (7) The Whig dramatist Thomas Shadwell attacked it in The Tory Poets: A Satire; Robert Gould reacted with moralistic horror at the sex scene between the widow Lady Galliard and the hero Wilding; and in his poem, "To the Sappho of the Age, suppos'd to Ly-In of a Love-Distemper, or a Play," William Wycherley, in his typically labored verse, jumbles images of sex, childbirth, venereal disease, and Behn's public fame to celebrate the play as one of the "easiest Off-springs of [her] Wanton Brain":
 Thus, as your Beauty did, your Wit does now,
 The Women's Envy, Men's Diversion grow;
 Who, to be Clap'd or Clap you, round you sit,
 And tho' they Sweat for it, will croud your Pit;

 But, if 'tis true, that you had need to Sweat,
 Get, if you can, at your New Play, a Seat. (8)

Even as Wycherley slogs through conventional misogynistic imagery to pun on "clap" as both venereal disease and applause, his invoking of a pit crowded with sweating bodies suggests something of the popularity that Behn enjoyed. His compliment, like her appeal to "unbyast Judges;' calls attention to the ways in which Behn's theatrical success encompasses both artistic and financial dimensions. To understand why The City Heiress had "the luck to be well receiv'd," I want to gauge, in at least a preliminary fashion, the nature and extent of that reception and what it meant for Behn financially, before turning to her staging of the ironies of women's interpellation in and by a patrilineal society.


Although recent accounts by Cheryl Turner, George Justice, Betty Schellenberg, and Emma Pink have illuminated the economic lives of women novelists in the late eighteenth century, there are no comparable historical studies by which scholars can judge, with any certainty, Behn's financial position in relation to the circumstances of her male contemporaries. (9) While Germaine Greer has called attention to Behn's financial problems at several points during her career, it would be a mistake to attribute her difficulties solely to her gender. Male dramatists during the Restoration were often in embarrassed circumstances: Wycherley spent at least a year in debtors' prison and was in legal troubles over his debts for the last three decades of his life; George Etherege took minor diplomatic posts, first in Constantinople and then in Ratisbon (or Regensburg, as it is also known), that interrupted and then effectively ended his theatrical career; Thomas Otway died penniless despite a run of successful plays in the early 1680s; and Nathaniel Lee, the son of a prominent Anglican clergyman, spent four years in Bedlam before he died in the streets. (10) As a woman, Behn was denied access to the kinds of patronage opportunities available to her male peers--she could not, like Wycherley, be granted a sinecure to tutor the king's illegitimate son--and the extraordinary output of the last five years of her life (1684-89) can be characterized, in part, as evidence of her feverish literary efforts to stave off creditors. As a woman writer, Behn had to subsist on the proceeds from third-night receipts, the sale of her play scripts to booksellers, command performances of her plays at court, fees for prologues and epilogues (typically 10 [pounds sterling]), and later in her career the sale of her translations, poems, and novels.

Although precise figures for theatrical receipts for individual performances of plays are sketchy, William Van Lennep notes that between 1682 and 1692, the United Company averaged about 50[pounds sterling] per performance. The benefit night for Shadwell's play The Squire of Alsatia (1688) netted the playwright 130[pounds sterling], and popular plays on good nights might bring in 100[pounds sterling]. (11) The City Heiress opened in April 1682, and the Moroccan Ambassador attended a performance on May 18 of that year. The three-week span between the premiere of The City Heiress and the Ambassador's attendance suggests at least six performances, possibly nine, and two benefit nights for Behn, if not a third. The significance of this run may be gauged by first estimating her income in the early 1680s and then characterizing it in relation to the limited statistical and demographic evidence available for income distribution in late seventeenth-century Britain. Ironically, the scant information we have about Behn's income dates from a period when she was not writing for the theater.

In 1682, after the King's and Duke's Men had merged into the United Company, more than halving the number of new plays produced, Behn ran into legal problems for a prologue she wrote for an anonymous play, Romulus and Hersilia. The warrant for Behn's arrest may not have resulted in a prosecution, but it apparently forced her to find other sources of revenue; without the theater as a source of income, she turned to poetry, translation, and prose fiction to earn money. In a 1683 letter to Jacob Tonson, her publisher for a volume of poetry and translations, Voyage to the Island of Love (1684), Behn tried to negotiate a higher price for the sale of her manuscript:
 As for the verses of mine, I should really have thought 'em worth
 thirty pound; and I hope you will find it worth 25[pound sterling];
 not that I should dispute at any other time for 5 pound where I am
 so obliged. ... Alas I would not lose my time in such low gettings.
 But only since I am about it I am resolved to go through with it
 though I should give it. ... I wish I had more time, I would add
 something to the verses I have a mind to, but, good dear Mr Tonson,
 let it be 5[pounds sterling] more, for I safely swear I have lost
 the getting of 50[pounds sterling] by it, though that's nothing to
 you, or my satisfaction and humour: but I have been without getting
 so long that I am just on the point of breaking, especial since a
 body has no credit at the Playhouse for money as we used to have,
 fifty or 60 deep or more; I want extremely or I would not urge
 this. (12)

Behn's letter offers some valuable insights into the feast-or-famine economics of playwrighting in the late seventeenth century. Her assertion that she has lost 50[pounds sterling] by spending her time writing The Island of Love rather than a play suggests her expectations for a third and possibly sixth night's revenue. Her request for 30[pounds sterling] likely reflects her usual price for the sale of one of her manuscripts. Perhaps more revealing is her indication that successful dramatists might expect "credit" or, I take it, an advance on third-night receipts of 50[pounds sterling] or 60[pounds sterling]. Maureen Duffy suggests that in 1681 Behn may have made 150[pounds sterling] from The Rover, part two, including its sale to a bookseller, and at least two performances of other plays at court. (13) Even if we err on the side of conservatism and assume that Behn netted less than 50[pounds sterling] for some of her third-night receipts, she clearly was making a substantial income that would put her on the fringes of the fashionable society that she depicts in her comedies.

In his economic and demographic description of English society in 1688, Gregory King relied on tax rolls to divide the country's population into twenty-three social classes and then attributed annual incomes to the heads of household in each of these groups; his figures have been revised and questioned by modern scholars in ways that emphasize the slipperiness of King's data, the uncertainty of his conclusions, and the porous socioeconomic boundaries among minor gentry, officeholders, lawyers, and merchants. (14) Nonetheless, King's tables provide some benchmarks for understanding what selling a play for 30 [pounds sterling] or borrowing 50 [pounds sterling] against future receipts signifies historically. According to Peter Lindert and J. G. Williamson's adjustment of King's figures, 50[pounds sterling] was approximately the annual salary of a clergyman in 1688; lawyers' incomes are calculated as 154[pounds sterling]; naval officers at 80[pounds sterling]; and shopkeepers at 45[pounds sterling]. is Although some contemporaries alleged that Behn was "kept" by the bisexual lawyer, John Hoyle, she may have been making, at times, almost as much money as he did, and it seems likely that their sexual relationship involved financial considerations more complicated and ambiguous than those that characterized typical gentlemen and their mistresses. (16) It is equally likely, though, that for a woman without a male guardian or husband, 150(pounds sterling) would not go as far as it would for a man; as Lindert notes, "the relationship of staple food prices and rents to the overall cost of living differed sharply across classes," and, I would suggest, across the gender division as well. (17) As a woman living in fashionable and expensive London, who could not rely on modest rents from a small estate to supplement her income, Behn no doubt confronted the prospect more than once of going "without getting [for] so long that [she was] just on the point of breaking." This certainly had been the case during the late 1660s when she was in debt and begging for the money owed her by the Crown for her espionage activities in the Low Countries. (18)

Given the professional necessity of being both a fashionable woman and a dramatist in fashion--Wycherley depicts her sitting in the pit as an object of sexual desire as well as a celebrity--Behn faced the kind of expenses for clothes, servants, and lodgings that proved difficult for her male contemporaries to manage. Like them, she seems to have lived up to and beyond her income, yet 150[pounds sterling] in 1681 or 1682 remains a substantial amount of money for a writer of either sex. Almost a century later, in 1777, Frances Burney made twenty guineas for Evelina, a three-volume novel, and another ten guineas when the third edition was published several years later; the average woman novelist in the eighteenth century received 5[pounds sterling] for a novel. (19) Whatever uncertainties, gaps, and ambiguities exist in Behn's biography, it might be a safe guess that, in the early 1680s, her income matched or exceeded the salary that Elizabeth Barry, the United Company's leading actress, commanded of fifty shillings per week during the theatrical season.

Behn's letter to Tonson provides a means to rethink the relationships among money, gender, and social class in plays such as The City Heiress. Like her other comedies of the early 1680s, this play sets attractive Tory rakes, desperately in need of money, against older, hypocritical, typically impotent, and invariably greedy Whigs. By dispossessing her heroes, Behn comically inverts the socioeconomic considerations that are displayed in her letter: men have money, women must beg, cajole, or even prostitute themselves or their talents to get it. Catherine Gallagher, among other critics, has called attention to Behn's identification of her own role as playwright with the sexual labor of the prostitute, Angellica Bianca, in the first part of The Rover; yet this self-presentation of her profession, picked up by Wycherley in "To the Sappho of the Age," is subject to multiple qualifications and at least partial disavowals. (20) Angellica Bianca is a professional businesswoman who gives Willmore five hundred crowns after they sleep together; given the price she charges as a courtesan, she is as far from "breaking" as the rich heiresses who dot the comedies of Behn and her contemporaries. Behn's rakes, in contrast, are invariably concerned with cadging a few pounds and with dreaming or scheming of the kind of fabulous wealth they can secure by marrying young, witty, and beautiful heiresses. Willmore in both parts of The Rover, Wilding in The City Heiress, and her other comic heroes are invariably in debt, cut off by their loyalty to the Stuarts from the estates and income to which they are entitled. As sexual objects, Behn's rakes must strut their stuff to attract wealthy heiresses; yet, at the same time, these good-natured Royalists become fantasy figures--embodiments of the very desire for financial autonomy--onto which women in the audience can project their anxieties about their economic disempowerment in a patrilineal society. In this respect, Behn's hypermasculinized heroes ironically are feminized in and because of their dire financial situations. If Behn identifies her writing for money with the sexual labor of prostitution, it is the Wildings and Willmores of her comic worlds who assume and revel in the characteristics typically associated with the figure of the whore: indiscriminate seductiveness, self-aggrandizement, and habitual untrustworthiness.


The City Heiress, like Behn's other comedies of the early 1680s, demystifies the masculinist rhetorics of love and honor and treats the institution of marriage as the last resort for characters eager or desperate to maintain the socioeconomic benefits of class privilege. (21) For a woman to put herself in a man's power by marrying him is, in large measure, an act of legal and economic disempowerment in the seventeenth century; and, for Behn, this recognition has an important corollary: the choice for her heroines is never between "good" and "bad" husbands but between men who, at least, are honest in acknowledging the asymmetry of gendered power in marriage and those who deploy--whether self-consciously or unselfconsciously--a deceptive language of romantic love. Because Behn's sexual politics cannot be mapped onto either a Whiggish vision of English literary culture or an "Enlightenment" concept of rights, neither seventeenth-century audiences nor twenty-first-century critics are encouraged to judge her plays as though they were preoccupied with an ethos of women's "liberation" or feminist "subversion." Although Behn characteristically employs tropes of political loyalty to heroicize Tory rakes like Wilding, she does not pose "realistic" solutions to the ideological double binds of her heroines' existence but portrays the dynamics of complicity and disavowal that characterize their dealings with men. (22)

The plot of The City Heiress revolves around the problems of a hero rakish even by Behn's standards: Tom Wilding, in the first act alone, pledges love to both the beautiful rich widow, Lady Galliard, and to the young city heiress, Charlot, and, for good measure, keeps a mistress, Diana, as well. Despite some plot elements drawn from Thomas Middleton's 1606 city comedy, A Mad World, My Masters, Behn offers neither a comedy of intrigue, in which the eventual marriage partners, Wilding and Charlot, discover each other's "true" natures, nor a comedy of manners in which the heroines, Lady Galliard and Charlot, test their suitors to determine if, by degrees, they can dwindle into husbands. Wilding's reformation is never at issue--he never reforms--and his performance of the traditional role as a masterful, silver-tongued seducer is treated comically. From the beginning of play, he is remarkably unsuccessful in getting any of the three women with whom he is involved to believe his protestations of love:

Wilding: Ah, my dear Chariot! You who know my heart, can you believe me false?

Chariot: In every Syllable, in every Look:

Your Vows, your Sighs, and Eyes, all counterfeit ... (2.1.130-33)

In most Restoration comedies, and in Behn's first major hit, The Rover, the language of passion, the rake's stock in trade, poses difficulties for women, who must try to decode and resist a rhetoric that they find attractive but that threatens them with the loss of virtue, reputation, and autonomy. But in The City Heiress, even an inexperienced heiress has little trouble in recognizing and rejecting the semiotics of masculine deception, and none of the women in the play believe him faithful, constant, or trustworthy. Diana upbraids him when she first comes onstage for failing in his duty as a Restoration "keeper":
 I have been too often flatter'd with the hopes of your marrying a
 rich Wife, and then I was to have a Settlement, but instead of
 that, things go backward with me, my Coach is vanisht, my Servants
 dwindled into one necessary Woman and a Boy...., my twenty Giunnies
 a week, into forty Shillings.... [Y]et still I am flamm'd off with
 hopes of a rich Wife, whose fortune I am to lavish (2.2.62-66,

The comedy of this exchange between Wilding and Diana hinges on his failed attempts to placate her and on the fantastic sums of money that she expects as her due. Before his spending had outstripped his means, the hero had been lavishing more than one thousand pounds a year on his mistress, almost four times the annual income of a member of the minor gentry. Her comic complaint that she now must make due on a tenth of that sum, in one sense, measures the difference between fantasies of lavish wealth and the difficulties of trying to get by with two servants and no coach. Diana refuses to be mollified until Wilding convinces her to impersonate Charlot in a complicated scheme to steal the legal papers that entitle him to the fortune of his uncle, the notorious Whig Sir Timothy Treat-All, a caricature of the first Earl of Shaftesbury, the leader of the Parliamentary Whigs fighting to exclude the Catholic Duke of York from succeeding to the throne. Yet even as Behn returns to the satire of the Whigs that she had used successfully in the second part of The Rover and The Roundheads, she reinvigorates and reironizes the masculinist languages of wit and seduction.

For Behns immediate predecessors on the Restoration stage, masculine wit is inherently unstable and performative, and characteristically described, as Harriet Hawkins notes, in images of acting and gameplaying. (23) In George Etherege's The Man of Mode (1676), the parodic language of wit destabilizes the relationships between actor and role, original and mimic, nature and art; it presents masculine identity itself as ironic and self-dramatizing. Unlike William Congreve's lovers, Valentine and Angelica, at the end of Love for Love (1695), Etherege's Dorimant and Harriet cannot "think of leaving acting, and be [them] selves," because they have no "selves" distinct from acting. (24) In act 5 of The Man of Mode neither hero nor heroine can retreat to an idealized language of "true" emotion that is free from a performative self-consciousness: the audience watches the actors perform characters who, in turn, regard their own performances within the play to judge to the success of their self-presentations. When Dorimant proposes to Harriet by declaring he will "renounce all the joys I have in friendship and in Wine, sacrifice ... all the interest I have in other Women," she rejects his overwrought rhetorical display and reasserts the skeptical irony of wit: "Though I wish you devout," she responds, "I would not have you turn Fanatick." (25) Devotion, Harriet realizes, is itself only a performance, and her wit serves to protect her against the hero's seductive language of newfound fidelity. In this respect, Dorimant's acting does not resolve itself into convenient binaries: appearance versus reality or art versus nature. He does not pretend to be one kind of man and then reveal himself to be another but incorporates multiple possibilities at once. His performances--even when they produce the kind of skepticism that Harriet voices--represent a kind of fantasy of masculine empowerment: Dorimant is so good an actor that even the women who doubt his sincerity--Belinda and Harriet-respond just as Mrs. Loveit does, falling in love with him despite their recognition that he will "seem as fond of a thing [he is] weary of, as when [he] doated on't in earnest" (2.2.202-3). Like Horner in Wycherley's The Country Wife (1674), Dorimant is at his most seductive when the audience recognizes that he assumes different roles to appeal to and manipulate the characters around him.

In contrast to Dorimant's convincing performances, Wilding's efforts produce an ironic distance that Behn exploits in order to induce a profound skepticism about love and marriage. In restaging the ubiquitous problems of late seventeenth-century society--the resentments of younger sons, the anguish of recalcitrant daughters, and the desperation of the impoverished gentry--Behn appropriates the ironies of Restoration wit to display, for women as well as men, the effects of what Peter Sloterdijk has termed "cynical reason": the ways in which subjects deflect, rationalize, and refuse to think about their complicity in social practices that they know or suspect are corrupt, alienating, and self-defeating. (26) As desiring subjects as well as desirable objects, women participate in the same kind of metonymic economy of desire as the men they pursue, and Behn dramatizes in very funny ways the interanimating processes of ideological legitimation--reaffirming traditional socioeconomic and political hierarchies by the act-five distribution of estates, money, power, and city heiresses--and ironic skepticism, even cynicism about the justice and believability of such rewards. Slavoj Zizek describes succinctly the dynamics of cynical reason: "even if we do not take things seriously, even if we keep an ironical distance, we are still doing them." (27) While Behn, like her male contemporaries, resorts to the generic fantasies of comic endings that pose imagined solutions to intractable problems, she also registers the ironies confronting women, like Lady Galliard, who comment incisively on their complicity in practices that limit their rights and frustrate their desires. Behn's heroines are neither blind to their subjection to the dictates of patrilineal power nor intent on subverting them; they recognize what they are doing, but they are doing it anyway, and acting as though their knowledge did not matter.


Behn's sardonic view of Wilding's performance reflects a larger concern among late seventeenth-century women writers with the masculinist bad faith that underlies and infects the discourses of love and marriage. In his study of gender and the fiction of the public sphere, Tony Pollock calls attention to the ways in which Mary Astell, an ardent female separatist, debunks the idea that an idealized, sentimental masculinity offers

women an alternative to the seductive libertine and the insensitive, boorish merchant. (28) Astell was an advocate for the segregated education of upper-class women, in a monastery-like setting, as well as a High Church Tory who repeatedly condemned marriage as a form of chattel slavery. In both A Serious Proposal to the Ladies (1697) and Reflections on Marriage (1704), she warns women against the dangers of men and marriage. (29) According to Astell, when a man "appears with all the modesty and submission of an humble and unpretending admirer," that is precisely when a woman should suspect that he "nourishes the hope of being [her] lord and master." (30) Because Astell assumes that her female readers know they should avoid rakes, she emphasizes that women must take even "greater caution the more humble and undesigning a man appears" because, in a patrilineal society, marriage inevitably turns women into slaves and men into tyrants. (31) In her mind, there is no way for any husband--even those professing undying love and eternal fidelity-to avoid perpetuating the legal and economic forms of exploitation that shackle women.

Although it would be difficult to imagine two near-contemporaries temperamentally more different than Behn and Astell the former's theatrical success lies in her ability to stage convincingly the dilemmas that Reflections on Marriage describes: her heroines operate within a patrilineal system that functions as both the socioeconomic basis of a hierarchical political order and as an ideological fantasy that sugarcoats the oppression they suffer. In different ways, then, both writers recognize that women's autonomy depends on challenging the masculine control of money, property, and even desire--Astell segregates women, Behn offers the imaginative suspension, in poems such as "The Golden Age" of masculinist prerogatives. (32)

In her Pindaric ode "On Desire," Behn's speaker asks the questions that perplex her characters, like Lady Galliard, who surrender to the desire provoked by the rake: "What Art thou, oh! Thou new-found pain?"/From what infection dost thou spring?" (1:281, 11. 1-2). If desire names the somatic and psychological effects of an "infection," it also reflects the ambiguities that characterize personal and social identity--the irrationality that induces women to play by patrilineal rules and to act against their pleasures and self-interest. In characters such as Lady Galliard, Angellica Bianca, and the prostitute La Nuche in the second part of The Rover, Behn neither travesties nor celebrates female desire as the cornerstone of a golden-age, unrepressed sexuality; instead, she satirizes the ideological behaviors and values associated with women's compliance: "all your virtu's but a cheat / And Honour but a false disguise,/Your modesty a necessary bait" (1:283,11. 103-5). In a Pindaric addressed to desire, the speaker does not indict social pretense or hypocrisy but describes the ironies of social experience. The female persona perceives herself bound by social and moral "custom" yet realizes that, as both sexual object and desiring subject, she can critique, evade, and reappropriate situationally masculine conceptions of virtue, honor, and modesty.

In this regard, the attraction that Behn's heroines feel for rakes like Wilding dramatizes their willful misrecognition of the inexplicable desire for love itself, a desire that puts them in danger of being betrayed by their own minds and bodies. They must learn to distance themselves from the fantasy of the rake reformed. In different ways, all of Behn's heroines recognize but remain complicit in the fantasies that marriage will extend indefinitely the excitement of courtship and that their royalist lovers will never turn into superannuated and jealous husbands. In The City Heiress, Lady Galliard and Charlot comment ironically on their own performances of the social and psychological roles demanded by virtue, honor, and modesty: they know that Wilding is incapable of fidelity; they know that marriage, for women, is a trap; and they know that their desires must be, as Behn says in "On Desire," "the false offspring of mistaken love" (1:282, 1. 64). Yet they act--and must act--as though they do not. Behn's heroines cannot transcend, reject, or even vilify such fantasies because all of these options would require an impossible task--an idealized ability to step outside of one's social and ideological roles, including those roles that we all play in the imaginary theater of psychic interiority. Instead, The City Heiress explores the process--more difficult for women than for men--of coping with the realization that honor and virtue are both internalized standards of social identity and deceptive and repressive mechanisms that constrain female desire.

To a significant extent, the often bitter ironies of female complicity are embodied in the figure of Lady Galliard, the rich widow played by Elizabeth Barry, the Company's leading actress. The seduction scene between Lady Galliard and Wilding invokes the gendered asymmetry of marriage to undermine any pretense to unquestioned belief in either masculine honor or passive feminine virtue. Lady Galliard describes the hero as "a Rakeshame, who have not esteem enough for the [female] Sex to believe your own Mother honest--without Money or Credit, without Land either in present or in prospect; and half a dozen hungry Vices, like so many bawling Brats at your back, perpetually craving, and more chargeable to keep than twice the number of Children" (4.1.134-39). She recognizes that Wilding is, in effect, beyond reformation, compulsively driven by both his "Vices" and his chronic lack of money, and yet it seems precisely his cynical rationalizations that make her susceptible to his efforts to seduce her. Ironically, it is the very worthlessness of the rake in conventional moral and monetary terms that allows Behn to divorce comically love from marriage. Wilding's children--the imaginary heirs to an estate that he does not yet possess--are transformed into his vices, those "bawling Brats" that signify a state of perpetual debt. The socioeconomic anxieties that define the existence of many members of the audience-younger sons living beyond their means, officeholders during the turmoil of the Exclusion Crisis, and those women who do not command one thousand pounds a year for their sexual labor--are projected onto the figure of a "Rakeshame" who embodies both the recklessness of desire and, in his plot to steal back his estate, the dream of acquiring seemingly limitless wealth.

Parrying Lady Galliard's accusation that he is to be married to Charlot, Wilding first denies the rumor and then backtracks to his role of ardent lover:

Wilding: But suppose it 'twere true, cou'd you be jealous of a woman I marry? Do you take me for such an Ass, to suspect I shall love my own Wife? On the other side, I have a great Charge of Vices as you well observe, and I must not be so barbarous to let them starve.... No, I must marry some stiff aukward thing or other with an ugly face and a handsome Estate, that's certain: but whoever is ordain'd to make my Fortune, 'tis you onely that can make me happy.--Come, do it then.

Lady Galliard: I never will.

Wilding: Unkindly said, you must.

Lady Galliard: Unreasonable man! Because you see I have unreasonable regards for you Pleasure to hear, and trouble to deny you, A fatal yielding in my nature toward you Love bends my Soul that way.-- (4.1.142-58)

The only certainties in this exchange are the "ordain'd" recognition that penniless gentlemen must marry for money and the awareness that masculine desire knows no bounds of religion or propriety. The bluntness of Wilding's proposition--"do it then"--casts the wealthy and eminently marriageable widow in grossly sexual terms, and yet it seems that it is the prospect of sex without the strictures of marriage that "bends [her] Soul." Lady Galliard's "fatal yielding" is the theatrical corollary of the speaker's "new found pain" in "On Desire" a physiological response to the revelation that the ideological injunctions to women to repress their desires never work: "all your virtu's but a cheat / And Honour but a false disguise, / Your modesty a necessary bait." For Lady Galliard as for many of the women in Behn's poetry, desire and experience trump moral precepts and the imperfect mechanisms of self-policing. (33)

As she feels herself giving into his advances, Lady Galliard imagines the social and psychological consequences of acting on her "unreasonable regards" for Wilding. Her blank verse recalls the soliloquies of Angellica Bianca in The Rover, both women upbraid themselves for sacrificing self-interest to desire:
 [H]ave I promis'd then to be
 A Whore? A Whore! Oh let me not think of that!
 A man's Convenience, his leisure hours, his Bed of Ease,
 To loll and tumble on at idle times;
 The Slave, the Hackney of his lawless Lust!
 A loath'd Extinguisher of filthy flames,
 Made use of, and thrown by.--Oh infamous! (4.1.228-34)

In one respect, Lady Galliard's language of self-recrimination demonstrates the power of the internalized masculinist values of honor and virtue that dictate proper feminine behavior. Yet in the context of her looming seduction by Wilding, this speech calls attention to its own performative inadequacy, even insincerity; Behn, in effect, has Barry parody the tragic roles she popularized, the fallen woman and tear-jerking victim. (34) In this respect, the actress demands that the audience take at face value her performance of Lady Galliard's psychological torment and simultaneously recognize the disjunctions between the generic demands of sex comedy and the moralized rhetoric of self-loathing. Ultimately, Lady Galliard has to confront precisely the cynical awareness that her "modesty" is itself the ultimate mark of her objectification, a "necessary bait" that both excites Wilding's passion and forces her to repress "Love and Nature." In the comic world of The City Heiress, the question that Lady Galliard asks before she succumbs to the hero's blandishments, "Who can always her own Wish deny?" (4.1.261), has only one answer: those women who buy into a system that provokes and thrives on the exercise of cynical reason.

The appeal of the Tory rake, then, is not that he embodies the precepts of a royalist authoritarianism that provides a model for imagining a coherent female self, as Gallagher has argued, but that for Behn, as for Astell, Toryism dovetails with the ongoing process of demystifying the discourses of masculinist bad faith. (35) The City Heiress, in this regard, complicates its seemingly straightforward anti-Whig satire by recasting political polemic as an expression of cynical reason that disavows the false oaths, sworn testimony, foreswearings, and bought and unbought witnesses that characterize legal and political discourse--not to mention the drama--during the Exclusion Crisis. (36) For Behn, Toryism signifies a comedy of skeptical disbelief; the theatricalization of politics demands that the performances of witnesses and their interlocutors must be attended to but never uncritically believed. Wilding's protestations and Lady Galliard's skepticism displace the political disillusionment of the early 1680s onto the asymmetries of gendered power, and yet this displacement takes the ironic form of the rake's violating the social and moral imperatives of a patrilineal ideology in which he remains invested.

At the beginning of The City Heiress, Sir Timothy Treat-All laments that "before he fell to Toryism, [Tom Wilding] was a sober, civil Youth, and had some Religion in him, wou'd read Prayers night and morning with a laudable voice, and cry Amen to 'em ...--Wore decent Cloaths; was drunk upon Fasting-nights, and swore but on Sundays and Holydays: and then I had hopes of him." Wilding's companion, Sir Charles Meriwill, the earnest suitor for Lady Galliard, tries to re-establish his friend in Sir Timothy's good graces by pointing to signs of Tom's beginning reformation: "But, Sir, he's now become a new man, is casting off all his Women, is drunk not above five or six times a week, swears not above once in a quarter of an hour, nor has not gam'd these two days" (1.1.50-59). In this exchange, "Toryism" lacks a precise political valence: the contrast between Sir Timothy's puritanical cant and his nephew's Tory hedonism can be inscribed only on the level of ideology, only as a debunking of the moralistic rhetoric that seeks to repress physical desires and stoke religious fervor. Travestied in the figure of Sir Timothy, Shaftesbury and the Whigs have no agenda or beliefs besides their hypocrisy, and their rhetoric of prayer, abstinence, and rights masks only their greed, ambition, and bad-faith attempts to coerce or cajole others into outward shows of sanctimonious conformity. For Sir Charles and Wilding, then, Toryism marks a recognition of both their inevitable complicity in a corrupt social world and of the inadequacy of the very policing mechanisms to which they owe their ultimate good fortune: Church, State, marriage, love, inheritance laws, and "Faith." They know what they are doing, but they are doing it anyway, and reveling in their own skeptical interpellation. In contrast to the overt demonstrations of rakish royalism in The Roundheads, Behn offers no Tory political program in The City Heiress, no injunctions to believe in the metaphysics of a Stuart succession. Instead, the play stages a comedy of libertine complicity: her characters act as though they believed in order, authority, true love, and marriage even though they celebrate for the better part of five acts their license to disbelieve. Told by Sir Timothy that Sir Charles spends money, gambles, and has a mistress, his uncle, Sir Anthony defends him by asking, "where's the harm of this?" (1.1.233-34). Sir Anthony voices the recognition that libertine Toryism poses no danger to the Stuart succession or the socioeconomic status quo.


In a parody of reformation plots, Behn makes it clear that the only character who has to change during the course of the play is the love-smitten Sir Charles, who must be purged of what Lady Galliard derides as his "whining humour" (2.2.149), his tendency to lapse into the language of chivalric or sentimental love whenever he tries to woo her. Her initial disdain for Sir Charles is motivated by her resistance to "her Relations [who] wish it a Match"; consequently, his talk of love and marriage provokes her resistance to an ideology of romance that masks the mercenary motives of upper-class marriage, what she calls her spirit of "natural contradiction" (2.2.150-51). Half-dragged to pay court to Lady Galliard by Sir Anthony Meriwill, the shy and bumbling Sir Charles has his performance as a lover critiqued by both his uncle and his future wife. Finding her at her dressing table, he tries both compliment and abasement:

Sir Charles: That Beauty needs no Ornament, Heaven has been too bountiful.

Sir Anthony: Heaven! Oh Lord, Heaven! A Puritanical Rogue, he courts her like her Chaplain! [Aside vext]

Lady Galliard: You are still so full of University Complements--

Sir Anthony. D'ye hear that, Sirrah--Aye so he is, so he is indeed, Madam.--To her like a man, ye Knave.

Sir Charles: Ah, Madam, I am come ...

Sir Anthony: To shew yourself a Coxcomb.

Lady Galliard: To tire me with the Discourses of your Passion .--Fie, how this Curl sits! [Looking in the Glass] (2.2.255-64)

This farcical exchange continues for several minutes, with Sir Anthony berating him and Lady Galliard ignoring him because Sir Charles is trapped in and by his own unconvincing performance as a dutiful lover. When he tries to begin his leave-taking, by telling her, "you shall hear no more of that ungrateful subject," love, his uncle threatens and implores him "behave your self like a man: be impudent, be sawcy, forward, bold, towzing, and leud, d'ye hear, or I'll beat thee before her" (2.2.266,270-72). This exchange translates into comic form Astell's critique of masculine rhetoric: there is no performance, no declaration of undying love and honorable intent that can alter the asymmetries of legal, social, and economic power between the sexes. All protestations of love and devotion invariably descend into impudence and aggressive forms of masculine desire. Lady Galliard recognizes that the formal language of courtship is emotionally hollow and sexually unappealing: invariably "whining Love" discloses a fundamental dishonesty in the performance of romance. The heroine sits playing with her curls and trying on necklaces because her future husband's devotion tries to force her into playing a role she knows is false and constraining--the disdainful and desire-less object of misogynistic fantasy.

Ironically, Sir Charles can be transformed into an acceptable suitor only by getting roaring drunk, as he does in act 4, and breaking in on Lady Galliard, just after she has had sex with Wilding. His entrance and the ensuing farcical theatrics of Wilding's sneaking out of her locked chamber in the dark amid drawn swords and screaming servants discourage the audience from reacting to Lady Galliard's sexual encounter with moralistic horror. While the heroine is confronted by a dilemma that, in late seventeenth-century tragedy, typically ends in suicide or life-long penitence, the punishment she suffers is the fate usually reserved for comic butts: she must marry someone she does not love. In his drunken state, however, Sir Charles sheds his inhibitions as he changes from a "whining" lover to a libertine. He starts undressing onstage, cheered on in asides by his uncle, who is concealed along with Lady Galliard's bribed servant, and his brash form of wooing confirms him as the kind of "impudent," "bold" "saucy" and "leud" heir whom Sir Anthony can embrace:

Lady Galliard: Hold, Sir, what mean you? Sir Charles: Onely to go to bed, that's all.

Lady Galliard: What Impositions this! I'll call for help. Sir Charles: You need not, you'll do my business better alone.

(4.1.497-98, 508-09)

When he gets to the point, according to the stage direction, of "fumbling to undo his Breeches" Lady Galliard, decides that with "no Witness neer!" she can safely be rid of him, by giving him what he wants--not sex but marriage. "I'll promise" she says in an aside, only because "he'll have forgot it in his sober Passion" (4.1.513-15). But the homosocial and patrilineal bonds that bind uncle and nephew prove stronger than even a drunken declaration of love: Lady Galliard is stunned to find out a moment later that her promise, which is legally binding, has been overheard by the two concealed witnesses. In an important sense, the heroine must be tricked into proper feminine passivity, and Sir Charles must be cured of his false and self-deluding commitment to "whining love" in order for their marriage to be based on the always partially demystified recognition of the bargain they have made: she gets a newly minted Tory rake and can judge his promises of fidelity and devotion accordingly; he gets the woman he has been pursuing by acting on his desires, even though he suspects she may have cuckolded him already with Wilding. Ironically, it is Lady Galliard, more than Sir Charles, who benefits from his conversion from proto-sentimentalist fantasy: she can be honest in declaring that she will cuckold him, "game without cessation" until he is penniless, and sleep with him only "when [she] please[s]." In her second marriage, Lady Galliard can drop pretenses to modesty and even honor and assert her ability, as a fashionable, upper-class wife, to test and deceive her husband. His response incorporates both the generic insouciance of jaded rakes and his recognition that her sexual desire becomes his ally: "see who'll petition first," he suggests, for sex after they are married (5.1.398,405,406).

The final scene parodies traditional comic endings and extends Behn's sardonic view of marriage; Diana ends up married off to Sir Timothy (comic villains typically are yoked to prostitutes or women cast off by the hero), but the audience's attention is focused on the contrasts between Charlot and Lady Galliard as they pair off with Wilding and Sir Charles respectively. Chariot willfully ignores or forgets the ample evidence she has of her future husband's sexual appetites and indulges in the kind of overblown rhetoric for which the unreformed Sir Charles had been mocked earlier in the play:

Charlot: I have thee, and I'll die thus grasping thee: Thou art my own, no Power shall take thee from me.

Wilding: Never, thou truest of thy Sex, and dearest, Thou soft, thou kind, thou constant Sufferer, This moment end they fears; for I am thine.

Charlot: May I believe thou art not married then?

Wilding: How can I, when I'm yours? How cou'd I, when I love thee more than Life?


At this point, having thrown himself into the role of faithful lover, Wilding turns to Lady Galliard and says, "Now, Madam, I am reveng'd on all your scorn," and then directs a second aside to Sir Timothy: "And Uncle, all your cruelty" (5.1.527-36). Wilding's romantic posturing with Charlot is mediated through this double comic revenge of wounded male pride and homosocial rivalry. His upbraiding of Lady Galliard for marrying Sir Charles suggests the extent to which this self-exposure of his double-dealing depends on the audience's ironic identification with neither the naive bride-to-be nor the self-congratulatory rake, but with the sexually experienced widow. (37) Finally surrendering to the inevitable, Lady Galliard tells her future husband: "your unwearied Love at last has vanquisht me. Here, be as happy, as a Wife can make ye--One last look more, and then--be gone fond Love" [Sighing and looking on Wilding, giving Sir Charles her hand] (5.1.586-88). Behn inverts the Petrarchan valence of "vanquisht" and, since Lady Galliard, to dissuade Sir Charles from enforcing her marriage promise, has told him previously she will cuckold him, vex him, and gamble away his money, "as happy as a Wife can make ye" has to be taken ironically. Looking at Wilding as she gives Sir Charles her hand, Lady Galliard becomes, for a moment onstage, a visual emblem of the desire and cynical reason that characterizes Behn's heroines. This tableau forecloses the possibility, at least for "unbyast Judges of Sense," of reacting to Lady Galliard with the kind of moralistic horror vented by the satirist Robert Gould when he denounced Behn's "vicious widow on the Stage / Just reeking from a Stallions Rank Embrace / With Ruffled Garments, and disordered Face." (38) Lady Galliard indulges in no self-recriminations; she suffers no moral torment about her liaison with Wilding; and she is not banished from society. Yet she is no closer to answering the question that Behn poses in "On Desire": "What art thou?" Lady Galliard's desire, like Wilding's, is protean, mediated through a triangulated relationship with her husband and lover that registers comically her skepticism about the very discourses, practices, and ceremonies in which she is participating. (39)


In adapting the conventions of 1670s wit comedy and early 1680s political satire, The City Heiress anticipates the kind of radical skepticism that characterizes Behn's verse in the 1680s, notably "The Golden Age," and her preface to the translation of Fontenelle's Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds. Two years after the premiere of The City Heiress, Behn opened her first volume of poetry with "The Golden Age," a poem that goes beyond any of her Italianate, French, or English models in its unambiguous rejection of the forms and structures of coercive belief systems: religion, government, property, and patriarchy. In the same volume, Behn printed an uncensored version of her commendatory poem to the Oxford scholar Thomas Creech, "On his Excellent Translation of Lucretius." Creech had published a heavily edited version of her poem in the front matter of his 1683 translation; his version cut--among many others--these lines that Behn pointedly restored:
 [Lucretius] Pierces, Conquers and Compels,
 Beyond poor Feeble Faiths dull Oracles.
 Faith the despairing Souls content,
 Faith the Last Shift of Routed Argument.
 To Gods for fear, Devotion was design'd,
 And Safety made us bow to Majesty;
 Poets by Nature Aw and Charm the Mind,
 Are born[,] not made by dull Religion or Necessity. (40)

Lucretius was a touchstone for radicals and skeptics in the seventeenth century because De Return Naturam rejected the idea of a divinely ordered universe in favor of a cosmology of stochastic self-organization. Behn's praise of Lucretius suggests the extent to which the cultural disillusionment exacerbated by the Exclusion Crisis finds expression in poetic alternatives to "Faith" and "dull Religion"--alternatives that work by aesthetic "Aw[e] and Charm" rather than moral "fear." By positioning poetry against ideologies of faith and economic aggrandizement ("Necessity"), Behn calls attention to the ways in which her artistic practice resists the "dull Oracles" of conventional thought.

Read in the context of her philosophical libertinism, The City Heiress becomes less a straightforward sex comedy than an ironic treatment of the cynical posturing that characterizes Restoration wit. Behn decouples a radical, if comic, critique of masculinist privilege from the kind of utopian political program envisioned by Astell, and as a libertine skeptic who distrusts a Whiggish rhetoric of rights and religion, she emerges as a key figure in the rich tradition of Restoration and eighteenth-century women's writing that challenges the entwined ideologies of patriarchal privilege and moral coercion. In this respect, it is worth considering the possibility that the attacks on Behn's immorality after her death may have been motivated as much by a distrust of her skeptical, libertine tendencies as they were by her portrayals of feminine sexuality and desire. Betty Schellenberg, in her study of eighteenth-century women writers, has argued convincingly for de-emphasizing gender as an explanatory category; analogously, our understanding of Behn might benefit from recontextualizing her career in terms of both late seventeenth-century print culture and her connections to the skeptical tradition represented by writers such as Rochester, Buckingham, and later Bernard Mandeville. (41) As she did for sweaty audiences in 1682, Behn continues to command attention because she stages, perhaps better than any of her contemporaries, the dark comedy of ideological complicity that defines social existence.

University of Illinois


(1) For representative views, see Janet Todd, The Secret Life of Aphra Behn (London: Andre Deutsch, 1997); Derek Hughes, The Theatre of Aphra Behn (Bastingstoke: Palgrave, 2001); Jane Spencer, Aphra Behn's Afterlife (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000); Rereading Aphra Behn: History, Theory, and Criticism, ed. Heidi Hutner (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1993); Aphra Behn Studies, ed. Janet Todd (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996); and The Cambridge Companion to Aphra Behn, ed. Janet Todd and Derek Hughes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

(2) Hughes, Theatre of Aphra Behn, 2.

(3) Robert Markley, "'Be impudent, be saucy, forward, bold, touzing and leud': The Politics of Masculine Sexuality and Feminine Desire in Behn's Tory Comedies" in Cultural Readings of Restoration and Eighteenth-Century English Theatre, ed. J. Douglas Canfield and Deborah Payne (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1995), 114-40.

(4) See Daryl Ogden, The Language of the Eyes: Science, Sexuality, and Female Vision in English Literature and Culture, 1690-1927 (Albany, N.Y.: SUNY Press, 2005).

(5) Janet Todd, The Works of Aphra Behn, 7 vols. (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1992), 217. All quotations from The City Heiress and from "On Desire" are from this edition.

(6) See Hughes, Theatre of Aphra Behn, 140-52; Todd, Secret Life, 282-85; Maureen Duffy, The Passionate Shepherdess: Aphra Behn 1640-89, 2nd ed. (London: Methuen, 1989), 219-20; and Markley, "'Be impudent, be saucy, forward, bold, touzing, and leud'," 131-36.

(7) Gerard Langbaine, An Account of the English Dramatick Poets (London, 1691), 19.

(8) William Wycherley, Miscellany Poems (London, 1704), 191-92. On the critical reception of The City Heiress, see Janet Todd, The Critical Fortunes of Aphra Behn (Columbia, S.C.: Camden House, 1998), 5-6.

(9) Cheryl Turner, Living by the Pen: Women Writers in the Eighteenth Century (New York: Routledge, 1992); George Justice, The Manufacturers of Literature: Writing and the Literary Marketplace in Eighteenth-Century England (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2002); Betty Schellenberg, The Professionalization of Women Writers in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005); and Emma Pink, "Frances Burney's Camilla: To Print my Grand Work ... by Subscription," Eighteenth-Century Studies 40 (2006): 51-68.

(10) Germaine Greet, Slip-shod Sibyls: Recognition, Rejection and the Woman Poet (New York: Viking, 1995), 173-96.

(11) William Van Lennep, ed. and comp., The London Stage 1660-1800, Part One: 1660-1700, with a Critical Introduction by Emmett L. Avery and Arthur H. Scouten (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1965), 308-09.

(12) As quoted in Duff), 235.

(13) Duffy, 212.

(14) Gregory King, "A scheme of the income and expense of the several families of England calculated for the year 1688," in Seventeenth-century Economic Documents, ed. Joan Thirsk and J. P. Cooper (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), 79-98. See Peter Lindert and J. G. Williamson, "Revising England's Social Tables, 1688-1812," Explorations in Economic History 19 (1982): 385-408, and Tom Arkell, "Illuminations and Distortions: Gregory King's Scheme Calculated for the Year 1688 and the Social Structure of Later Stuart England," Economic History Review 59 (2006): 32-69.

(15) Lindert and Williamson, "Revising England's Social Tables," 400-4.

(16) Greer, 175.

(17) Peter H. Lindert, "When Did Inequality Rise in Britain and America?" Journal of Income Distribution 9 (2000): 12.

(18) For a valuable study of Behn's fiction and the problems of monetary value, see Rebecca Elisabeth Connor, Women, Accounting, and Narrative: Keeping Books in Eighteenth-Century England (New York: Routledge, 2004), 67 90. Connor's conversion of 150[pound sterling] into $13,000, however, gives far too low a figure, as Lindert's analyses make clear.

(19) On Burney's sale of Evelina, see Pink, 54-55.

(20) Catherine Gallagher, "Who Was That Masked Woman? The Prostitute and the Playwright in the Comedies of Aphra Behn," in Rereading Aphra Behn, ed. Hutner, 65-85. See also Janet Todd, The Sign of Angellica: Women, Writing, and Fiction, 1600-1800 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988).

(21) On Behn's plays of the early 1680s, see Sue Owen, "Sexual Politics and Party Politics in Behn's Drama, 1678-83," in Aphra Behn Studies, ed. Janet Todd (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 15-29; Ros Ballaster, "Fiction Feigning Femininity: False Counts and Pageant Kings in Aphra Behn's Popish Plot Writings," in Aphra Behn Studies, 50-64; Heidi Hutner, "Revisioning the Female Body: Aphra Behn's The Rover, Part I and II," in Rereading Aphra Behn, 102-20; Markley, "'Be impudent, be saucy, forward, bold, touzing and leud'," 114-140; Hughes, Theatre of Aphra Behn, 133-70; and Anita Pacheo, "Reading Toryism in Aphra Behn's Cit-Cuckolding Comedies," Review of English Studies 55 (2004): 690-708.

(22) For a different view, see Hero Chalmers, Royalist Women Writers, 1650-1689 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

(23) Harriet Hawkins, Likenesses of Truth in Elizabethan and Restoration Drama (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), 79-97. I have dealt with Etherege at greater length in Markley, Two-Edg'd Weapons: Style and Ideology in the Comedies of Etherege, Wychedey, and Congreve (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), and "'Still on the Criminal's Side, against the Innocent': Libertines and Legacies in the Plays of Etherege and Wycherley," Blackwell Companion to Restoration Drama, ed. Sue Owen (Oxford: Blackwell, 2001), 326-39.

(24) William Congreve, Love for Love (4.1.708), in Complete Plays of William Congreve, ed. Herbert Davis (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967).

(25) George Etherege, The Man of Mode (5.2.143-47), in The Dramatic Works of Sir George Etherege, ed. H. F. B. Brett-Smith, 2 vols. (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1927).

(26) Peter Sloterdijk, Critique of Cynical Reason, trans. Michael Eldred (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987).

(27) Slavoj Zizek, The Sublime Object of Ideology (London: Verso, 1989), 33.

(28) Tony Pollock, Gender and the Fiction of the Public Sphere (New York: Routledge, forthcoming).

(29) Mary Astell, A Serious Proposal to the Ladies (London, 1697) and Reflections on Marriage (London, 1704).

(30) Astell, Reflections, 66.

(31) Astell, Reflections, 70.

(32) See Robert Markley and Molly Rothenberg, "The Contestations of Nature: Aphra Behn's 'The Golden Age' and the Sexualizing of Politics," in Rereading Aphra Behn, 301-21. The following two paragraphs are adapted from Robert Markley, "Behn and the Unstable Traditions of Social Comedy," in The Cambridge Companion to Aphra Behn, 98-117.

(33) On Behn's poetry, see Andrew Barnaby and Lisa Schnell, "'Matters of Fact': Truth, Evidence, and Discourse in the Late Poems of Aphra Behn," in Literate Experience: The Work of Knowing in Seventeenth-Century English Writing (New York: Palgrave, 2002), 159-196; and Alvin Snider, "Atoms and Seeds: Aphra Behn's Lucretius," Clio 33 (2003): 1-24.

(34) On Restoration acting styles and their implications for interpretation, see Peter Holland, The Ornament of Action: Text and Performance in Restoration Comedy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979); Jocelyn Powell, Restoration Theatre Production (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1984); Joseph Roach, The Player's Passion: Studies in the Science of Acting (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1985); J. L. Styan, Restoration Comedy in Performance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986); Elizabeth Howe, The First English Actresses: Women and Drama, 1660-1700 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992); Kristina Straub, Sexual Suspects: Eighteenth-century Players and Sexual Ideology (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992); Cynthia Lowenthal, Performing Identities on the Restoration Stage (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2002); and Jeremy Webster, Performing Libertinism in Charles II's Court: Politics, Drama, Sexuality (New York: Palgrave, 2005).

(35) Gallagher, 65-85.

(36) See Pacheo, 690-708, and Susan J. Owen, Restoration Theatre and Crisis (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996).

(37) On the problems faced by women in the audience of Restoration comedies, see Pat Gill, "Gender, Sexuality, and Marriage" in The Cambridge Companion to English Restoration Theatre, ed. Deborah Payne Fisk (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 191-208, and Jean Marsden, Fatal Desire: Women, Sexuality, and the English Stage, 1660-1720 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2006), 17-59.

(38) Quoted in Todd, Critical Fortunes of Aphra Behn, 5.

(39) On the triangulation of desire in eighteenth-century literature, see Martha J. Koehler, Models of Reading: Paragons and Parasites in Richardson, Burney, and Laclos (Lewisburg, P.A.: Bucknell University Press, 2005).

(40) Aphra Behn, Poems upon Several Occasions (London, 1684), 52-53.

(41) Schellenberg, passim.
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Author:Markley, Robert
Publication:Comparative Drama
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 22, 2007
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