An Edition of The Rover play analysis

This project grew out of an exercise designed primarily to give graduate students practical experience in the processes of textual bibliography.  It was continued and completed based on two beliefs:  first, that the errors found among extant editions are significant enough to warrant further revision, and second, that the existence of a text with format and language accessible to modern readers is essential to the survival of this important work.  With these aims in mind, we have worked to produce an edition of The Rover that respects not only the believed intentions of the author and the integrity of the earliest texts, but also the needs and concerns of contemporary students,teachers, actors, directors, and audiences of all sorts.

The version of the play chosen as the copy text for this edition was the second issue of the first edition, printed in 1677.  The first comparison text was an issue of the second edition that was printed in 1697.  The second comparison text was a 1915 volume edited by Montague Summers.  Summers’ text was chosen because it is based primarily upon a 1724 collection of Behn’s dramatic pieces–a collection that, according to Summers, is “by far the best and most reliable edition of the collected theater.”

Most of the changes documented in the textual notes stem from substantive discrepancies between these three texts.  Often these discrepancies are the result of words or phrases being inverted from one edition to another.  Note 44, for instance, concerns the stage directions in a scene where Florinda hugs Belvile and his vizard falls off.  In the earliest edition, the hugging precedes the unmasquing, but in the 1697 edition, the masque falls off before the embrace.  The order in which these actions are performed have significant consequence forthe audience’s understanding of Florinda’s motivations:  is she hugging Belvile because she thinks he is Belvile, or because she thinks he is someone else?  Other noted discrepancies are cases where words were omitted in one or more of the editions.  In the 1677 and 1915 versions, for example, Philipo delivers the line in Act III, “Blame me not, Lucetta”;  yet in the 1697 version, the line reads “Blame not Lucetta” (note 32).  Again, the difference is substantial;  isPhilipo attempting to shift culpability from himself or from Lucetta?  In these cases, unless the context of the action suggests that the changes of the later texts were logically sound (see note 61), the copy text was taken as the authoritative version.

In some instances, accidental changes were also cited in the textual notes (see notes 28, 58, and 65, for example).  Most of these noted changes highlight differences in punctuation.  Although, as will be discussed below, many changes in punctuation have not been noted, those where the alteration would affect the inflection and delivery (if not the very meaning) of a line have been cited.

This text contains many instances of editorial regularization that are not specifically indicated in the notes following the text. Capitalization, except in those cases where nouns are personified in direct address (“Honour” or “Fortune,” for instance), has been standardized for the ease of the modern reader.  Excessive commas have been deleted, and periods have been added at the end of some lines. Names of characters were regularized where there were inconsistencies even within a single text (e. g. “Angelica” with one and two “l’s”). Spelling has been similarly regularized.  For the most part, for example, past-tense verbs ending in “t” in the early editions have been changed to “ed.”  The expression “whe” is consistently replaced with “why.”  “My self” and “your self” have been combined into the modern compound words throughout.  More substantive spelling changes were made in cases where it seemed outdated orthography could significantly slow or distract a modern audience.  For example, “perswasive” becomes “persuasive” and “jealousie” becomes “jealousy.”  similarly, the final “k” has been dropped from words such as “rhetorick” and “antick,” and “wou’d” and “cou’d” have been spelled in full.  The “-our” endings of words such as “honour” and “vigour,” however, have been left intact — for though the abbreviated “-or” endings have widely replaced them in America, the “-our” spellings are still used in contemporary English discourse.

After considerable debate among the editors, it was decided that Behn’s frequent use of contractions (“e’en,” “tis,” and “to’t,”  to name a few) was one aspect of the text that would not be regularized according to modern standards. Because Behn often mixes poetry into this primarily prosaic text, it was decided that significantly altering syllables could disturb an intentional metric or rhythmic design. Likewise, the archaic pronouns “thee” and “thou” have been preserved so as not to damage the aural and tonal effects of the original.  Finally, the metrical divisions of the early texts have been preserved in this edition, as they were in the 1915 edition.

A final change not included in the textual notes concerns the numbering of scenes.  In both the 1677 and 1697 editions, individual scenes usually cease to be numbered mid-act;  that is, usually the first (and sometimes the second) scene of each act is marked by number, but later scenes lack the numeric designation.  The 1915 edition, however, continues to number scenes throughout each act.  For ease of reference (for teachers or directors, for example), we have chosen to follow the 1915 version.

Of course, we recognize the irony in regularizing the text of a play about irregularities, “opening up” a text built around covering up. But in the process of creating this edition, we have also frequently shared with Behn’smasquers the pleasurable experience of revealing a state that was once concealed.  It is our hope that the text that follows succeeds in straightening out Behn’s wonderful world of tangles and confusions, so that other readers may continue to participate in the play of this play, as well.


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