Behn, Aphra

Behn, Aphra

biographical name

(born 1640?, Harbledown?, Kent, Eng.—died April 16, 1689, London) English dramatist, fiction writer, and poet. Her early life is obscure (as is her original surname), but she spent some of it in South America. She married a merchant named Behn probably in 1664; he died (or they divorced) soon after. Her best-known work, the short novel Oroonoko (1688), tells the story of an enslaved African prince; it influenced the development of the English novel. Her first play, The Forc'd Marriage, was produced in 1670, and her later comedies, such as the two-part The Rover (1677, 1681), were commercially successful. She was the first Englishwoman known to have earned her living by writing.

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