Love-Letters Between A Nobleman and His Sister - Plot Summary - Part III

Part III


To Lord Spencer: Aphra Behn praises Spencer for his noble birth and the glorious future, that is surely destined for him. The author pretends that there are no parallels between Lord Spencer and Cesario, because Spencer would be as loyal as his own father. However, she seems to warn him implicitly of making the same mistakes as Cesario, the character in her book. Cesario is highly ambitious and wants to become King. But he lacks good advice and patience. Therefore his rebellion against the King, his own father, fails and he dies on the scaffold.


Silvia: a beautiful young woman, who eloped from her parents with Philander, the husband of her sister; married to Philander's servant Brilljard (a sham marriage); became Octavio's mistress in Philander's absence

Philander: a young handsome man, who enjoys conquering women; left his wife Mertilla for Silvia; found a new mistress (Calista) in Cologne; a good friend of Octavio and his rival as well; a rebel who has joined Cesario's association

Octavio: a handsome, rich and noble man; one of the States of Holland; Calista's brother; in love with Silvia and a rival to Philander

Cesario: Prince of Condy; leader of the rebellion of the Huguenots in France; aspires to become the next King of France; he is the King's bastard son

Brilljard: Philander's servant; Silvia's lawful husband, who promised not to claim her as his wife; however, he fell in love with her

Calista: Octavio's sister, married to an old Spanish Count; Philander's slam piece

Sebastian: Octavio's uncle, one of the States of Holland as well

Sir Mr. Alonzo Jr.: a handsome young gentleman, nephew of the governor of Flanders, by birth a Spaniard; a womanizer

Osell Hermione: Cesario's mistress, later his wife; neither young nor beautiful

Fergusano: one of the two wizards appointed to Hermione; Scottish; deals with black magic


In the last part of Aphra Behn's “Love-Letters” it is difficult to ascertain the main plot line. Many new characters, such as Alonzo, are introduced and the plot contains various love affairs, disguises, mistaken identities, and personal and political intrigues.

Despite the title “The Amours of Philander and Silvia” the love between these two characters does not seem to play the major role anymore (as it did in part 1). Their feelings towards each other are only dissembled and their relationship to other people gain in importance. Silvia is pursued by Octavio and by Brilljard, Philander pursues Calista and other women. Furthermore, a large part of the action is concerned with Cesario's political scheme to gain the crown. That is why it is hard to say, if Philander and Silvia are still the protagonists in part 3 of the novel.

In comparison to the first part of the “Love-Letters” Silvia's character has changed a lot. She has become a calculating woman, who is only interested in her own profit. Much of her emotions are dissembled. It could be argued for some inconsistency in Aphra Behn's novel in her character development.

What is more, it becomes harder to identify the major characters and to understand the motivations for certain actions. This hangs partly together with the change of the narrative form. The exchange of letters in part 1, and to a lesser extent in part 2, granted the reader more insight into the characters´ motives. The distance to the characters grows in part 3, where the omniscient narrator tells the story with less subtlety. On the other hand, this invites the reader to make up his or her own mind about the character's motives and developments.

Silvia and Octavio have to flee. In part 2, Philander has fallen in love with Calista in Cologne. His former mistress Silvia learned about his cheat and wanted to take revenge upon him. She decides therefore to marry his close friend Octavio, who is truly in love with her. This secret marriage is prevented in part 3, but not by Philander. It is Brilljard, Silvia's lawful husband, who has grown jealous of Octavio. Although Brilljard had promised never to claim her as his wife, he reveals in public that he is already married to her. In this way, Silvia's reputation is damaged and consequently Octavio's. Although Octavio has learned that she is already married to Brilljard, he still wants to marry her. He even accepts to be deprived of his honours, when he is charged with not caring about state affairs. This shows that Silvia is more important to him than his own status and societal position. Octavio's powerful uncle Sebastian falls in love with Silvia and brings her to his own house, where he guards her well. He wants to marry her, but is shot dead beforehand, by one of Octavio's pistols that goes off by chance. Octavio and Silvia flee to Brussels.

Silvia and Philander reunite. Calista decides to become a nun after having learned from Silvia that Philander has another mistress. The rejected Philander becomes Silvia's lover again. It is astonishing that Silvia yields so easily to him again, considering that she swore to take revenge upon him. What is more, it seemed as if she had gradually developed more feelings towards Octavio. It comes to a duel between the two rivals, in which Octavio is badly wounded. While Octavio is recovering, Silvia runs off with Philander to a little town. This seems to be a spontaneous and unwise action. In contrast to Octavio, Philander is not ready to marry her and thus not concerned about her good reputation. Furthermore, Octavio could secure her financially. Instead of enjoying their reunion Philander and Silvia soon get on each other's nerves and Philander starts having affairs with other women. By now, their love has entirely cooled down. Silvia gives birth to a child, an unimportant event, which is only meantioned in passing. It also remains open what happens to that child; she probably gives it away.

Silvia and Alonzo become lovers. While Philander is absent in Brussels, Silvia follows in men's clothes in order to regain Octavio as a lover. She makes Brilljard her confident. To ensure his loyalty she grants him to have sex with her every once in a while. This marks the beginning of her career as a prostitute. Octavio does not fall for her feigned fidelity anymore. Like his sister Calista, he takes holy orders, because he has been disappointed in love. The good-hearted Octavio wants Silvia to lead an honourable life without the support of a lover. Therefore he settles a good pension upon her. However, Silvia immediately spends some of the money on fine clothes, jewels, and a new coach. With this equipment she impresses everyone, including Alonzo, at the “Toure” and she finally manages to gain Alonzo as her new lover. She first met this handsome young man on her way to Brussels. Alonzo then held her to be a French nobleman, because she was dressed in men's clothes. They became good “friends” and even shared the same bed. Silvia felt attracted towards him and wanted to test if he could not be turned into a constant lover. With Brilljard's help she manages to deprive him of his fortune. In the end of part 2, Silvia has turned into a successful prostitute, who enjoys her life. Considering the first part of the “Love-Letters” this is a rather unexptected change.

The Political Plot

The political plot in part 3 is focused on Cesario's ambition of becoming King of France. His relationship to Osell Hermione plays a crucial role in this part of the story. She has been a former mistress to Cesario and is already past her beauty. To the surprise of everyone, the handsome prince falls in love with her. Only the reader gets to know the reason: Fergusano, a Scottish wizard, made a philtre, that bewitched Cesario and attached him to Hermione. She finally becomes his wife, and stirs up his ambition to become King with the help of two wizards.

Cesario leaves with all his men from Brussels to France, where he proclaims himself King. He loses the aid of his more powerful friend, though, who dislike his false declaration to the title. Fergusano had his hand in this affair and it seems as if Cesario is rather gullible and easily deluded into believing in his ultimate success.

Cesario's army is defeated by the Royal Army. He was too impatient and what is worse, abandoned by many of his own people. Philander was one of the deserters. He wanted to separate from his own party in France anyway in order to serve the King. This sudden change in his political attitude is not altogether surprising. In part 1, he already showed a lack of enthusiasm for the rebellion against the King. Cesario is finally executed, whereas Philander is pardoned and regains the affection of the King again.

Read more about this topic:  Love-Letters Between A Nobleman And His Sister, Plot Summary

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