Adcock, RC (2014) "Jack Presbyter in His Proper Habit": subverting Whig rhetoric in Aphra Behn's The Roundheads (1682). Women's Writing, 22 (1). 34 -55. ISSN 1747-5848

[thumbnail of Adcock_2015.pdf]
Adcock_2015.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (131kB) | Preview


Aphra Behn’s The Roundheads (1st perf. 1681, pub. 1682) was produced during a propaganda battle between the Whigs and Tories and set during the Interregnum in order to draw parallels between parliamentary usurpation and the Whig plea for
“liberty and property”. This article explores several contexts for the play, discussing the political atmosphere of the early 1680s, using this to speculate on the play’s propagandist message and its possible presentation in the theatre. In particular, it compares the annual Pope-burning processions with the play’s final bonfire scene, showing how Behn subverts this tradition in order to punish the bumbling, nonconformist usurpers, and explores its presentation of the Puritan lay-preacher (and proto-Whig), Ananias. Behn is clearly interested in playing with and undermining Whig traditions, slogans, and rhetoric, and subverts these in several ways. However, although The Roundheads’ anti-Whig message is undisputable, this article also considers whether the play questions the behaviour of the victorious (though rakish) cavaliers, particularly in their treatment of women. By considering the presentation of the “constant couple”, Freeman and Lady Desbro’ (who seems unlikely to ever become Lady “Freewoman” owning her “liberty and property”), the article suggests that the play’s message is more complex than Behn scholars have previously argued.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This is the accepted author manuscript (AAM). The final published version (version of record) is available online via Taylor & Francis at - please refer to any applicable terms of use of the publisher.
Uncontrolled Keywords: literature
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Humanities
Depositing User: Symplectic
Date Deposited: 12 May 2015 13:09
Last Modified: 22 Aug 2018 14:16

Actions (login required)

View Item
View Item