Authors Name: 
David Kilgannon
University: 
NUI Galway
Category: 
Literature
Highly commended

‘Tis a pity when the laws are faulty they should not be mended or abolished’: The vexed representation of Authority in Aphra Behn’s The Widdow Ranter (1688)

This paper examines the vexed representation of authority in Aphra Behn's posthumously performed 'The Widdow Ranter, or Bacon in Virginia' (1688). Performed after Behn's death, this play has arguably suffered from a degree of critical neglect, prompting some prominent scholars to reject it as a lesser work. This paper instead attempts to argue that the play's problematic representation of a number of issues should, in fact, be embraced by the prospective scholar, as it grants an insight into the mind of the once staunchly Tory writer that was Aphra Behn. In this paper three main issues relating to authority are examined: Behn's rewriting of Nathaniel Bacon's Virgnia Uprising, her representation of the autonomous lascivious Widdow Ranter and her representation of a noble rebel in the figure of Bacon. The paper conclude by arguing for complexity, highlighting how the play's multivalence of meaning grants the reader a more complex insight into Behn's thought processes at the end of her life.