Aspiring Female Writers: Meet the Woman Who Started It All, Aphra Behn

Since its premiere in 1677, The Rover by Aphra Behn has been performed in front of crowds all over the world. On Thursday, January 23, the show opens at UCF’s mainstage. While the play itself is full of twists, turns and mistaken identity, it may only pale in comparison to the illustrious life of its author, Aphra Behn.

Behn’s childhood and early life are cloaked in mystery. However, it’s known that she married a merchant with the last name Behn in 1664. Unfortunately, the lovers were separated shortly after, leaving Behn with very little money. All hope was not lost  her wit and social talent drew the attention of King Charles II, who employed her as a spy in the Netherlands.

While Behn was a woman of many talents, espionage was not one of them. Her stint in the secret service ended after she spent all of her funds and couldn’t convince the king to send her more. In order to make it back to England, she had to borrow money which she failed to repay. This landed her in debtor’s prison.

It was at this point that Behn made a decision that would change the course of her life — and history itself. She vowed that she would never rely on someone else for money again. Throughout the 1670s, she began writing novels and plays that were revolutionary for the time. Her stories fell into many of the misogynistic tropes of the era, but they included female characters who had their own storylines and motivations. She even touched on themes of slavery, gender and race.

Throughout the rest of her life, Aphra Behn would make waves as England’s first professional female playwright. From plays to poems, tragedies to comedies, her works are a testament to her versatility and talent. While gender equality and representation in the arts is still a work in progress (I’m looking at you, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences), it was brave and ambitious women like Behn who led us here today. Their vast legacy should be celebrated.

Tickets are still on sale to see one of Behn’s most famous plays, The Rover, during its run at UCF from January 23 to February 2. Enjoy a night out with the #girlgang and experience a piece of history for only $10 a ticket with your UCF ID!

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