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Chapter Abstract

The largest of Behn’s generic corpora, drama consists of eighteenth full-length plays, mostly comedies and tragicomedies. Her dominant lexical word in this genre is actually Sir, and the chapter details the way in which this small but provocative word operates as a conversational disrupter in the social hierarchies of power in the plays. Although not first, love remains a dominant word in this corpus. It is far more often an action word in her drama than her poetry, but it still functions primarily as a noun in the same formulation of body parts responding to passion. The chapter analyzes violence words as a case study in critical application, with a focus on fight, kill, rape and weapons. Behn’s eloquent defenses of her plays pit her in a critical battle of gender hypocrisy when she claims to write as well as any man despite being damned for offending “the ladies.” In a comparison of plays by nine contemporaries, all men except Mary Pix, Behn proves to be unexceptional in her use of curses and swears, though she does incorporate more female agents and a higher incidence of weeping on stage.

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Concordance data for drama.