Aphra Behn: Poetry and the Crisis of Stuart Monarchy

Aphra Behn was one of the most prominent writers of the later Stuart era. In her plays, including The Rover (1677), she addressed questions about gender and power. These themes are also present in her political poetry. During the reign of James II (1685-89), Behn wrote many poems in support of the Stuart monarchy (extracts from which can be read here) and they focus not just on the king but also the queen consorts who were central to the survival of the Stuart dynasty. In this film Dr John West and Dr Joseph Hone discuss how Behn’s poems chart the twists and turns in the fortunes of the Stuart lineage during a period of escalating political crisis.

Key Questions

  • How did women writers address political issues?
  • Why were queen consorts so important to the politics of the Stuart era?
  • How does Behn’s poetry offer praise and advice to different political figures?

Further Reading

  • Maureen Duffy, The Passionate Shepherdess: Aphra Behn 1640-1689 (London: Cape, 1977).
  • Clarissa Cambell-Orr (ed.) Queenship in Europe, 1660-1815: The Role of the Consort (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

Unless otherwise noted, images in this film are reproduced by courtesy of the Ashmolean Museum and the Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford.

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