Aphra Behn- Dramatist: 1640 1689
After John Dryden, Aphra Behns was the most prolific dramatist of the Restoration. She was one of the first English professional female writers.
Earlier Behn had become attached to the Court, possibly through the influence of Thomas Culpepper and other associates of influence, where she was recruited as a political spy to Antwerp by Charles II. Charles II employed her on secret service in the Netherlands during the Dutch war. At Antwerp she successfully accomplished the objects of her mission; and in the latter end of 1666 she wormed out of one Van der Aalbert the design formed by De Ruyter, in conjunction with the DeWitts, of sailing up the Thames and burning the English ships in their harbours. This she communicated to the English court, but although the event proved her intelligence to have been well founded, it was at the time disregarded. Disgusted with political service, she returned to England, and from this period she appears to have supported herself by her writings.
Among her numerous plays are The Forced Marriage, or the Jealous Bridegroom (1671); The Amorous Prince (1671); The Town Fop (1677); and The Rover, or the Banished Cavalier (in two parts, 1677 and 1681); and The Roundheads (1682). She possessed a great ingenuity, and showed an admirable comprehension of stage business, while her wit and vivacity were unfailing. Of her short tales, or novelettes, the best is the story of Oroonoko, which was made the basis of Thomas Southerne's popular tragedy.
Aphra Behn died on 16 April 1689, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. Below the inscription on her tombstone read the words:
"Here lies a Proof that Wit can never be
Defence enough against Mortality."
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