The editor supplies explanatory annotations and textual notes.
"Historical Backgrounds" is an especially rich collection of seventeenth-and eighteenth-century documents about colonizers and slaves in the new world. Topically arranged-"Montaigne on America," "The Settling of Surinam," "Observers of Slavery, 1654-1712," "After Oroonoko: Noble Africans in Europe," and "Opinions on Slavery"-these selections create a revealing context for Behn's unusual story. Illustrations and maps are also included.
"Criticism" begins with an overview of responses to Behn and Oroonoko, from learned and popular writers of her time to Sir Walter Scott and Virginia Woolf, among others. Current critical interpretations are by William C. Spengemann, Jane Spencer, Robert L. Chibka, Laura Brown, Charlotte Sussman, and Mary Beth Rose.
A Chronology of Behn's life and a Selected Bibliography are included.
Aphra Behn flourished in the cosmopolitan world of the London playhouse and the court. It was she, Virginia Woolf wrote, "who earned [women] the right to speak their minds."