A Bound Collection of 17th c. English Plays

Behn, Aphra (1640-1689); Dryden, John (1631-1700); Shakespeare, William (1564-1616); Davenant [D'Avenant], Sir William (1606–1668), et al.

A collection of 10 17th c. quarto plays, including 3 by Aphra Behn, the first edition of Dryden and D'Avenant's adaptation of Shakespeare's "The Tempest", and George Villiers' satire on Dryden and contemporary drama, "The Rehearsal."

London: various printers, various dates: 1670- 1688


Quarto: 21.5 x 15.5 cm. 10 works bound as one. (See below for individual collations and descriptions.)

Bound in late 17thc. English speckled calf, light wear, minor repairs to head of spine, leather of upper joint split. Contents in overall good condition with scattered light toning or spotting, a few tears (described below) and occasional minor blemishes. A fine, intact collection with an important Shakespeare adaptation and three plays by Aphra Behn.


1. Dryden, John (1631-1700) 

Marriage A-la-Mode. A Comedy. 

London: T[homas]. N[ewcomb]. for Henry Herringman, 1684


Quarto: [8], 71, [1] A-K. A little light spotting.

[ESTC R15624Wing D2307; Macdonald 77b]


2. Villiers, George, second duke of Buckingham (1628–1687), and others

The rehearsal...the third edition... with amendments and large additions 

London: For Thomas Dring, 1675


Quarto: [4], 59, [1]. A2, B-H4, I2

Clean tear entering text (no loss) on leaf G4. Small loss to blank edge of one leaf, far from the text.

[ESTC R36324; Wing B5325]

"Villiars' principal literary claim to attention is his satire upon contemporary heroic drama, The Rehearsal, which showed how well his gift for caricature and mimicry translated to both stage and page. The play was several years in the writing, and was apparently a collaborative effort with Martin Clifford, Thomas Sprat, and Samuel Butler. When eventually it was first performed, at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, on 7 December 1671, it exhibited both literary targets (Dryden) and political (Arlington). The Rehearsal was immediately popular, being published five times in his own lifetime, and performed nearly three hundred times until 1777, during which its lead role (Bayes) was taken by the greatest actors of the day such as Colley Cibber and David Garrick. The appearance in 1779 of an even better satire, Sheridan's The Critic, effectively ended its run, but The Rehearsal retains its importance as the pioneer of a tradition of dramatic burlesque upon the English stage."(Yardley, ODNB)


3. Behn, Aphra (1640-1689)

The Emperor of the Moon: a Farce...the second edition. 

London: R. Holt for Joseph Knight and Francis Saunders, 1688

SECOND EDITION of the Behn's final play. 

Quarto: [8], 54, [2]. A-H4

Clean tear in margin of one leaf, just entering the text (no loss.) See below for a full description.

[O'Donnell, Aphra Behn, A23.2; ESTC R21086Wing B1728]


4. Dryden, John (1631-1700)

Secret-Love, or the Maiden-Queen. 

London: J[ohn]. M[acock]. for Henry Herringman, 1679


Quarto: [8], 57, [3]. A-H4, I2

[ESTC R22690Wing D2356; MacDonald 70c]


5. SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM (1564-1616); Dryden, John (1631-1700); Davenant [D'Avenant], Sir William (1606–1668)

The Tempest, or the Enchanted Island. A Comedy. 

London: J.M. for Henry Herringman, 1670


Quarto: [8], 82, [2] A-L4, M2

A fine copy.

[ESTC R17310Wing S2944; Bartlett, Shakespeare 161; Macdonald 73a]

"The adapted Tempest was the most performed play of the Restoration, and constituted a tenth of all live performances on both stages in its first season. Charles II and the court attended the play's premiere at Lincoln's Inn Fields, "the house mighty full," Samuel Pepys recorded, with "a great many great ones." The revised Tempest was an immediate hit. Pepys celebrated the "variety" of the play's high-tech stagecraft, being particularly impressed with the revised play's echo songs and extravagant combined music and machinery."(Shanahan)

"The Restoration attitude to Shakespeare, before his reinvention as ‘the Bard’ in the eighteenth century, is not one of uncritical adulation. He was regarded then as third in a triumvirate of worthy old poets headed by Ben Jonson and John Fletcher: first for what was termed ‘fancy’, but far more irregular than the other two and in need of improvement. In the first decade of the Restoration there were few new plays, so it is not surprising that the manager of the Lincoln’s Inn Fields playhouse, Sir William Davenant, should look to freshening up old plays as a means of ensuring a healthy box office.However, the version of The Tempest he made in 1667 with John Dryden, then at the start of his career, is much more than a hatchet job. The Enchanted Island is not only wonderfully theatrical, it brilliantly reflects many facets of Restoration life, including recent politics, social change and new philosophical ideas. 

"Like many early Restoration plays, The Enchanted Island, with its focus on usurpation and restoration, revisits the traumas of the Civil War period and lampoons Commonwealth polity.It also focuses on gender and male–female relations in a way impossible in Shakespeare’s day when a boy would have played Miranda. The adaptors are not shy to exploit the physical presence of the Restoration actress and the sexual possibilities are doubled by the addition of another young couple: Miranda has a sister, Dorinda, who loves Hippolito, a character described in the first edition of the play as ‘one that never saw Woman, right Heir of the Dukedom of Mantua’. Hippolito, however, is not added simply to furnish a male counterpart to Miranda, or to make up the numbers in a lovers’ quartet; as a character brought up outside the civilized world he is the principal means by which the adaptors explore then risqué notions concerning ‘human nature’. Thus, The Enchanted Island is as much a theatrical exploration of seventeenth- century philosophical and political ideas as it is sexed-up Shakespeare."(Tim Keenan, Adapting the adaptors: staging Davenant and Dryden’s Restoration Tempest)


6. Behn, Aphra (1640-1689)

The Young King: or, The Mistake. 

London: For D. Brown and H. Rhodes, 1683

FIRST EDITION of Behn's first play. 

Quarto:  [4] (of 6), 63, [1] p. [π]2, B-I4. Lacking singleton leaf a1 ("To Philaster")

Some tears in the gutter, with some rumpling or creasing but without loss. Minor spotting and a little soiling. See below for a full description.

[O'Donnell, Aphra Behn, A15.1; ESTC R18897Wing B1776]


7. Crown, Mr. (John) (1640?-1712)

Sir Courtly Nice: or, It cannot be. A comedy· As it is acted by His Majesties Servants. Written by Mr. Crown

London: by H[enry]. H[ills]. Jun. for R. Bently, and Jos. Hindmarsh, 1685


Quarto: [8], 59, [1] p. A-H4, I2

One line shaved, small natural paper flaw with loss of a few words on one leaf.

[ESTC R17366; Wing C7404]

Based on Augustín Moreto’s play "No puede ser", which is itself an imitation of Lope de Vega’s "Mayor imposible".--Cf. Camb. Hist. Eng. Lit.


8. D’Urfey, Thomas (1653-1723)

The royalist· A comedy; as it is acted at the Duke’s Theatre. By Thomas Durfey, Gent

London: for Jos. Hindmarsh, 1682


Quarto: [8], 63, [1] p. A-I4 (I4 torn with loss to epilogue.) Light browning.

[ESTC R21987Pforzheimer, 348


9. Behn, Aphra (1640-1689)

The Rover: or, The banish’t Cavaliers. A comedy: acted at His Royal Highness the Duke’s theatre.

London: printed for John Amery, 1677

FIRST EDITION. One of two re-issues. The title page is a cancel (ESTC) 

Quarto: [6], 83, [3] p. A-L4, M2

Some mild spotting. The play starred Thomas Betterton, theleading actor of the Duke's company and the greatest actor of his age. The part of Angelica as played by Ann Marshall Quin, an actress "with a track record in commanding, tragic roles."See below for a full description.

[O'Donnell, Aphra Behn, A6.1a; ESTC R213020or R201256; Wing B1763]


10. Dryden, John (1631-1700)

The Spanish Fryar, or The Double Discovery

London: For Richard Tonson and Jacob Tonson, 1686


Quarto: [8], 78, [2]. A-L4

[ESTC R4243; Wing D2369; MacDonald 86b]


Aphra Behn and The English Restoration Stage

"The Restoration theatre gave women an unprecedented public presence and identity. Actresses for the first time appeared on the public stage. Although they were the objects of lust, gossip, seduction, and (occasionally) assault, they also excited admiration through their talent, and some - such as Mary Betterton - enjoyed long and distinguished careers without any hint of scandal. The theatre also gave women other forms of prominence. In February 1663, Katherine Philips' translation of Corneille's La Mort de Pompee was performed in Dublin; her translation of Corneille's Horace, completed after her death by Sir John Denham, was performed at court in 1668 and at the King's Company's Bridges Street theatre in 1669. In 1668 Sir William Davenant's widow Mary assumed temporary managership of the Duke's Company, during the minority of her sons.1 In 1669 the King's Company staged Frances Boothby's Marcelia: the first original play by a woman to reach the public stage. And, in 1670, Aphra Behn emerged as the first British woman to make a living as a creative writer, with her tragicomedy The Forc'd Marriage, performed in September 1670 by the Duke's Company, the more successful and adventurous of the two companies. Two plays by Elizabeth Polwhele, The Faithful Virgins and The Frolicks, may also have been performed in 1670-1. Behn thus made her debut at a time when the stage was evidently quite open to women writers; yet only she went on to make a career as a dramatist. After 1671, no other woman is known to have had a play professionally staged until 1695, six years after Behn's death, when a period of cutthroat theatrical competition produced a demand for new writers, creating an opportunity that six women dramatists had seized by the end of the century.

"Although Behn did not have a play staged until 1670, she was in fact only the third fully professional dramatist, male or female, to establish herself since the reopening of the theatres in 1660, for the stage in the 1660s had been dominated by gentlemen amateurs (such as the Earl of Orrery), who were now bowing out… In the years from 1670 to her death in 1689 Behn had at least eighteen new plays performed (some other, anonymous, plays have also speculatively been attributed to her). During that same period, Dryden and Thomas Durfey had fourteen premieres; no man had more. In these two decades, therefore, Behn had twenty-five per cent more new plays put on than any male competitor."(Derek Hughes)

The Rover

"The most popular of Aphra Ben’s plays, The Rover has all the stock ingredients of Restoration drama – an attractive libertine, a spirited heroine, a domineering quasi-parental figure to be thwarted, and a foolish but endearing fop, trying unsuccessfully to be a rake. Florinda and Belvile’s love-match, opposed by family and rival suitors, belongs to an old dramatic tradition, as does Callis’s role of the governess or nurse. Angellica Bianca moves beyond the traditional stereotype of a prostitute to become a complex version of the dangerous scorned mistress. Yet, for all these recognizable characteristics and the incorporation of songs, music, sword-play, and dancing which an audience might expect from a play of this period, The Rover is full of surprises. On the surface, Behn appears to be working within the literary conventions of her day, but under it she pushes their boundaries as far as she dares.

                  "The play is set in the 1650s, a period which must have seemed, to English Royalists, like an indefinite extension of Lent, with the suppression of pastimes and sports by Cromwell’s Protectorate. Exiled in Naples, cavaliers make merry in a carnival setting, associated with Roman Saturnalian revels as well as with opposition to the restrictions of the Christian tradition’s Lent, which included a ban on sexual intercourse as well as the eating of meat. It is a time of misrule; everything is turned upside down, prohibitions are temporarily removed, and privileges and rank suspended. Carnival may have appealed to Restoration audiences because of its emphasis on sexual freedom, and to Behn because it extended this freedom to women as well as men. Her female characters often take the initiative and she has been credited with creating more daring dialogue between the sexes than many of her male contemporaries. In The Rover, she uses this successfully to explore issues of love and fidelity, trickery and deception, male power, forced marriage, prostitution, and what it means to be an outsider.

                  "Behn is skilled in complex staging techniques. The pace is often fast and the action hectic, with disguises and asides producing both comic effect and tension. The play’s structure sets up many thought-provoking moments: Jacqueline Pearson draws attention to the way Behn mirrors the behavior and experiences of Belvile and Florinda in I.ii and IV.ii and, again, in IV.i and IViii, which ‘emphasizes the equality between the lovers’. Culminating in a love-match between a convent girl and a pirate, The Roverremains a performable, entertaining play because of its insights into relationships between the sexes and its opportunities for female wit, spectacle, swashbuckling comedy, rapid dramatic transitions, and the creation of intimacy between players and spectators in a wide variety of theatrical settings."(Robyn Bolam)



The Emperor of the Moon

                  "The story of The Emperor of the Moon is one of gullibility. This had been the mark of Behn’s old City knights, although the scene here is supposedly Naples – incidentally connecting it with her other popular Neapolitan play, The Rover. Doctor Baliardo believes in a lunar world equivalent to the earth and holds to the comic Rosicrucian doctrine, that only spirits should copulate with mortals. So convinced is he that he denies his daughter, Elaria, and his niece, Bellemante, their merely terrestrial lovers. Soon, there are ‘stratagems a-brewing’, aided by Scaramouch and Harlequin.

                  "The Emperor of the Moon caught the public mood in its mockery of belief in science and medicine, its contempt, so usual for Behn, of pedantic male scholarship, as well as its scorn of alchemy and astrology. Medicine and love are comically entwined as wounds of the heart become physical and metaphysical; science and superstition merge. Telescopes and microscopes, the discoveries of Kepler and Galileo, founders of the new astronomy, are useless in the hands of fools who, with or without them, can see what they expect, in this case fantastic lunar voyages and other worlds remarkably similar to the Earth. As Scaramouch comments, echoing Behn on many a foolish university student, ‘this reading books is a pernicious thing’. Books like telescopes can only be of value to the already sensible; otherwise they magnify stupidity.

                  "The Emperor of the Moon is a play about theatre, transformation, and pageantry. Harlequin concludes couplets, making them appear on Bellemante’s tablet as if by magic. Scaramouch is an apothecary with a portable shop – another tribute to Rochester as Bendo here – a woman with a child, and a piece of tapestry. Disguises abound, Harlequin becomes ambassador from the moon and declares he can do whatever he wishes, even tickle himself to a laughing death. Baliardo’s house becomes a theatre within a theatre; dancers emerge from tapestries, revealing the theatricality of all life – indeed, when Elaria questions whether her father is mad, Bellemante shows that the theatrical circumstances of life might drive anyone so. The emphasis is on spectacle, on taking theatrical show to its limits.

                  "In the final spectacular scene, Behn demanded ten blacked actors, two descending chariots, the embodied signs of the zodiac landing on the stage to a symphony of music, and the moon changing phases and coming on as a machine which opens to disgorge the lunar emperor to the sound of flutes. It is an operatic display, in which almost the whole cast – including Underhill as Dr. Baliardo, Jevon and Leigh as Scaramouch and Harlequin, and Mountforts and Rochester’s protégée Sarah Cooke as the romantic leads – is assembled; spectacle follows spectacle, and a real marriage occurs within a fake scene. Finally, Baliardo, chastened by his exploded belief in the spectacle’s reality, elegiacally echoes Shakespeare’s last hero Prospero and commands: ‘Burn all my Books’. It is a triumphant finale to a play – and, as it turned out, to Behn’s theatrical career of seventeen years."(Janet Todd)



The Young King – Behn's First Play

"Despite her expeditions and observations, Aphra had much time on her hands in Surinam, and she used it in writing. Apart from the joy of creation, she was considering literature as a possible source of income in the future when espionage failed. It was a strange idea since no previous woman had been known to make a careerin such a way, but these were new times and something might be made of the role. Inevitably, as she lookedat the real world through romance, so she created a fantasy one in its style…

"The result was The Young King, the sort of tragicomedy that was fashionable in the early 1660s, with heroic lovers speaking blank verse, passages of courtly dialogue, and a concoction of Arcadian shepherds, symbolic pastures, magic cures, and absolute disguise…

                  "The play was not staged until 1679 when its contemporary references indicate revision, but it retained enough of its early material to tie it firmly to Aphra’s youth. It concerned a royal brother and sister, Orsames and Cleomena, the boy, because of an oracle, brought up in seclusion and ignorance of his birth, and the girl, in compensation, raised in manly pursuits and prepared for rule. For both, however, gender will out and, at the opening of the play, the princess is feeling a sexy dreaminess which makes her retreat from the hunt, while the prince, with an onrush of masculinity, rails against his passive life of musical idleness. At this interesting juncture, Cleomena falls in love and, feeling jealousy and feminine tenderness, concludes she is a woman. She, therefore, proposes that she should step aside for her brother. Orsames’ first sortie into the outside world is not encouraging, since he confuses gods and kings and tends to want all who cross him thrown into the sea, but he is later presumed to have learnt some sense and civility. Brother and sister assume their gendered ‘natural’ roles and throw off the disguise of nurture. Cleomena declares, ‘I am a perfect Woman now, / And have my Fears, and fits of Cowardice’.

                  "Despite the strident assertion of gender, there are some odd depictions in the play. When the soldier, who ‘abhor[s] the feeble Reign of Women’, thinks of the super-masculine lover of Cleomena, he exclaims, ‘how soft and wanton I could grow in the Description I could make of him’, odd vocabulary in the circumstances. The play is certain that woman is ‘no naural Amazon’ and that the martial attitude of the princess is to be laid to the ‘faults of Education, / That cozening Form that veils the Face of Nature, / But does not see what’s hid within’; yet Cleomena is given some perceptive remarks about the sword itself creating the martial arm. Underneath the deceiving veneer, she has ‘a Heart all soft--- all Woman’, first touched by the sight of the sleeping hero, but she controls this hero in an unfeminine gaze – she even has his hair pushed back from his face to get a better look. And Love is not only feminine but triumphant, natural against the aberrance of masculine War…

                  "The Young King has the kind of set pieces that would be rare in Behn’s later works, but one in particular seems to draw on her own feelings. In later life she shared the age’s love of alcohol. In the play the ignorant Orsames, describing his first taste of wine, finds it heightens the attractions of women as well as pleasure, and leads to ‘strange uneasy Joys’. He also discovers that, like wine, language increases sexual feeling; the telling of passion arouses passion. Both would be themes of Aphra Behn’s love poetry."(Janet Todd)