Oroonoko, the grandson of an African king, is madly in love with Imoinda, the daughter of the king's general. When the king—who is also in love with Imoinda—catches wind of their affair, he sells Imoinda as a slave. This betrayal sets off a chain of events that carries unforeseen consequences for everybody involved.
Aphra Behn's Oroonoko has been hailed as one of the first great English novels and remains a classic of historical fiction. It was adapted for the stage in the play Oroonoko: A Tragedy, which debuted in 1695 and went on to become a massive success.
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Born in the first few decades of the seventeenth century, Aphra Behn is one of early literature's best-known female writers. Behn had the lucky distinction of being able to support herself strictly by her "pen,” something unheard of for women of her time. Throughout her long career, she wrote in various forms—poetry, plays, prose—and is known as a member of the 'fair triumvirate of wit' alongside fellow scribes Eliza Haywood and Delarivier Manley. Although little is known about her early life, Behn's father held a post as lieutenant governor of Surinam, and Behn's experiences during her stay most likely formed the basis for her most famous work, Oroonoko. Behn was also a popular dramatist in her time, penning critical successes like The Rover and The Feigned Courtesans. Her literary exploits aside, Behn is also known to have acted as a political spy for King Charles II of England during the Second Anglo-Dutch War. Behn died in 1689, and is buried in Westminster Abbey.