Date of Award

Fall 1985

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


This edition offers a critical old-spelling text of Aphra Behn's The City Heiress. The first section of the critical introduction examines the problems created by Behn's early biographers and attempts to establish the reasons for her being such a mysterious figure in English literature. The introduction also provides a background of the Restoration theater, defines the nature of the Restoration audience for which Behn wrote, and shows how her comedy is both similar to and significantly different from that of her contemporaries. A discussion of a number of Behn's plays demonstrates that just as Behn becomes more assertive in responding to her critics, so, too, do her heroines to being dominated by men.

The introduction then focuses on The City Heiress, a comedy most noted for its satire of the Whigs and its caricature of The Earl of Shaftesbury, but more important as Behn's most definitive statement about women. In this play, employing what Laura Brown calls "dramatic social satire," Behn reverses the comic resolution one usually finds in Restoration comedies, in which the actions of the libertine are vindicated, and instead rewards the female with whom she shares such qualities as intelligence and the capacity to love.

The next section of the dissertation, A Note on the Text, is an explanation of my principles of editing.

The critical old-spelling text of the play is based on a collation of ten copies of the first edition and six of the second from libraries in the United States and Great Britain. It follows the substantives and accidentals of the 1682 quarto very closely.

The text is followed by textual notes that record all substantive emendations to the first edition and the second edition's departures from the first edition.

The appendices provide a brief biography of the actors and actresses, a chronology of Behn's plays, and a discussion of Behn's portrait of the Earl of Shaftesbury.