Aphra Behns' The Rover harks back to an earlier period of intense Anglo-Spanish rivalry in which the iconography surrounding Queen Elizabeth played a central role. But the play also moves past nostalgia for late-sixteenth-century narratives of English national identity to a cosmopolitan perspective that substitutes the vitiated courtesan for the virgin queen. This essay considers Behn's play–as well as its antecedent, Thomas Killigrew's Thomaso–as part of a trajectory of dramatic, poetic, and prose works, including Robert Greene's Friar Bacon and Friay Bungay, Sir Walter Ralegh's Discovery of Guiana, Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene, and Philip Massinger's The Renegado. Such works either directly or indirectly comment on the Anglo-Spanish rivalry, and together they amount to an incremental critique of Queen Elizabeth's defining place within the late-sixteenth-century imagination.

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