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Aphra Behn's Afterlife$
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Jane Spencer

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780198184942

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198184942.001.0001

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(p.223) 6 Oroonoko
Aphra Behn's Afterlife

Jane Spencer

Oxford University Press

This chapter traces the metamorphosis of Oroonoko into a vehicle for anti-slavery sentiment, showing how this change coincided with a tendency to play down the significance of Aphra Behn as narrator and as author. Abolitionists had very little to say about Behn herself, and that little was not favourable; and the complex relationship between the black hero and the white woman who takes it on herself to tell his story was dropped from later versions. Here, the chapter concentrates on the way the tragedy of Oroonoko and Imoinda came to function in the early 18th century as an expression and encouragement of feminine feeling. Composed in the mixed tragicomic form that violated neo-classical standards but was popular in the late 17th century, the play was originally presented as an entertainment to suit all moods.

Keywords:   metamorphosis, Oroonoko, anti-slavery, Aphra Behn, tradegy, Imoinda

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