chapter  4
26 Pages

Decidedly moving: Aphra Behn and the staging of paradoxical pleasures

From the instructions embodied in her prefaces to the creation of her fiveact plays, Aphra Behn designs a theatrical world negotiated through motion. Behn’s articulation of her purpose solicits the reading and theatre audiences to understand the compact they actively make with her, as with her characters and the actors on the stage. In her plays, Behn builds framed theatrical moments and in turn breaks the frame in order to provide the audience with a set-up of fixity and the correcting (sometimes simply inevitable) influence of motion. Though each chapter in this book examines the use of gender in creating terms of value, in Behn’s work the examination extends to the female characters invented by a female writer for female players. To be reminded of this historical fact is not to encourage an exercise in essentialist nostalgia, but rather to recognize the lucid examination of gender offstage and on by a very ironic maker of plots and theatrical schemes. In the theatrical world Behn stages the exchange of bodies, of money, and of wit reflecting the social world where there exists an increased anxiety and excitement about trade of all kinds. Through her plots and her characterizations, Behn makes comment again and again upon the world of the still, the withheld, the lasting, and the world of the moving, the offered, the ephemeral.