Wilmore is a “rake hero”. What is his ultimate impact on the audience? Is he to be admired or mocked? Why? Willmore epitomizes the libertine ideal of sexual freedom. He is an ambiguous figure who has charm and is witty, however is usually in danger of being mocked rather than the mocker. Attempted rape of one of the heroines in “The Rover”, suggests at the very least some mockery of the libertine hero. Wilmore is a sex addict repelled by commitment, “I am parlously afraid of being in love”.
This addiction is presented as being ridiculous, so is the fact that at times he is in pursuit of the bottle as of women. Hellena and WiIllmore are very similar. But she exposes his double standards, as Wilmore cries “Thy lodging, thy lodging! Or I’m a dead man! ” Hellena replies “why must we be either guilty of fornication or murder if we converse with you men” Hellena’s wit makes Willmore seem ridiculous here. She mocks the familiar libertine motif that the man will die if he is not sexually relieved and exposes Wilmore’s discourse of love, simply as crude sexual appetite.
Later she exposes the double standard within Wilmore’s ideology of sexual freedom “What shall I get? A cradle full of noise and mischief, with a pack of repentance at my back? ” ‘”Fair one, would you would give me leave to gather at your bush this idle month; I would go near to make somebody smell of it all year after. “‘ Here the way Wilmore is plays on this metaphor of a rose to make sexual suggestions by using bush as a female genital symbol emphasises his seductiveness and wit. The fact that he is subtly being quite crude highlights his rakish character.
Another way in which this comedic side is shown is when in the play he is paid by Angelica Bianca, the courtesan, due to her love for him. This is ironic as it is as if he is the prostitute and she is the customer thus inspiring laughter from the audience. Willmore’s tendency to ostensibly contradict himself is evident when he berates Angelica for laying a price on herself and judges her sinful. However his insincere moralistic tone is undermined by his hypocritical admission that “I am studying, madam, how to purchase you, though at present I am unprovided of money” This is amusing for the audience as Willmore comes f as a man who obviously doesn’t think before he speaks. Willmore’s rakish musings and behaviour are ridiculed by Behn and he is often an obstruction to Belville’s plans to meet Florinda. In addition, his rakish behaviour angers Angelica to the point where she threatens him with a pistol for his false promises, Willmore is viewed as helpless and inclined to be mocked by the audience as he knocked down a peg from his usual foppish behaviour.
However marriage compromises the excessive freedom of a libertine philosophy, while also keeping Willmore’s liberty intact because he, in fact, chooses to marry Hellena out of his own free will, this being a commendable thing for Willmore. Willmore’s smooth talking witty persona wins the hearts of many naive women; this is indeed amusing for the audience who are able to see through Willmore’s motives much to the other characters ignorance.
A man without a conscience wants nothing more than to enjoy the pleasures of other women, adverse to commitment, but seemingly has a reverse effect on the women he entices. The irony however lies in the fact he is inspired to fidelity by meeting his own match in the form of Hellena. However because Willmore chooses to settle down rather than continue his libertine lifestyle shows that even the most rakish of all can be admired in some aspects.