Aphra Benn was a woman playwright and novelist during the restoration. When she was young she seems to have lived in Suriname (before it was ceded to the Dutch by the Treaty of Breda in 1667 following the Anglo Dutch War (the English got New Amsterdam which they renamed New York). This story is about an African slave who led a revolt there.
Oroonoko is a Prince in his own country and very good looking (in fact he resembles a fine young English gentleman except for the colour of his skin). He falls in love with a very beautiful woman, Imoinda but the King, his grandfather, summons her to join his harem. The old King is impotent so Imoinda's virginity is preserved until Oroonoko can sneak into her bedchamber and ravish her. All night. The King finds out and sells Imoinda into slavery. Shortly afterwards, English sailors seize Oroonoko by trickery and transport him to Suriname and sell him as a slave to a very nice overseer called Trefry who treats Oroonoko with all respect. Surpirse, surprise, Imoinda is there (and has resisted all advances). So Oroonoko is reunited with her. But the story doesn't end there. Oroonoko leads a slave rebellion which is put down with great ferocity, despite promises of peace made by yet more treacherous Englishmen. Oroonoko is whipped to within an inch of his life and swears revenge ...
It is really short, only 66 pages, but the prose is long-winded and there is a lot of description. It is remarkable as a history and as an example of the nascent flowering of prose fiction; it is a classic story but the characters are too stereotyped for modern tastes.
November 2015; 66 pages
- I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57