Aphra Behn

Aphra Ben is one amongst the founders of the English novel, also, as the first woman novelist, she wrote Oroonoko (1688) which became the first novel to oppose slavery. Her views about drama are very unorthodox and controversial. She expressed her views in the prefaces to her various plays.

She rejects the classical rules of drama, the three unities of time, place and action. She further maintains that “if they meant anything, they are enough intelligible, and as practicable by a woman.”

She further opines that women will equate men in all capacities if they receive as much education as men, and they have the capacity to attain the heights achieved by men. She concludes her epistle in such a way as if it were an outburst of emotions: “Now, Reader, I have eas’d my mind of all I had to say.

Her preface to The Lucky Chance opposes disapprovals of her comedy. She considers those disapprovals the success of her play. She says that the disapprovals that are thrown upon her play is old and doesn’t fit on ladies.

She attacks the injustice of those works of poetry that indecently dealt with the subject of women. She believes that critics have been o unaccepting towards her because of her gender.

Defying critics, she says, “I make a challenge to any Person of common sense and reason … to read any of my Comedies and compare them with others of this Age, and if they find one word that can offend the chaste ear”, she will submit to the criticism” She further claims that there have been works with indecency, though, her works encompass no indecency and obscenity. 

Ben’s effort here is to enable a way of thinking beyond that of male-established literary tradition. She opposes all biases against women and denies that women are devoid of common sense and reason.

Her advocacy for women seems obscure as she herself demands to be included in male-established literary tradition: “All I ask, is the Privilege for my Masculine Part the Poet in me … to tread in those successful paths my predecessor have so long thriv’d in, to take those measures that both the Ancient and Modern writers have set me.”

However, her demand to be included in that male literary tradition is justified since there was no such female literary tradition at that time. She considered herself a part of that tradition, at the same time, she adopted a defiant and unapologetic tone against that, that’s what makes her stand outside the male establishment of the tradition.