Hey guys! Mariam here.
I think the setting is a pretty good point to start talking about the text. As you can see, it’s in Naples, which may be familiar coz it’s mentioned in “The Tempest”. More significantly though, it is set when Naples is having a Carnival!
The Carnival setting further heightens the frivolous, playful tone of the play. It is after all, a comedy, and the fun and fanfare of a carnival would make it even more fun to watch the play as you can just imagine how cool the set would be like. When asked by her governess what she will do at Carnival, Hellena replies, “That which all the World does, as I am told, be as mad as the rest, and take all innocent Freedom.” As we can see, the madness and freedom of Carnival is heightened by the fact that everyone is wearing masks and masquerading. As Belville points out about the masks he and Willmore are wearing, “Whatever Extravagances we commit in these Faces, our own may not be oblig’d to answer ‘em.”
This kind of environment is especially dangerous for a licentious character like Willmore. In fact, Willmore’s sexual desire threatens to become violent almost immediately after he comes ashore at Naples. A woman dressed like a courtesan at the carnival shuns Willmore’s advances and Willmore quickly becomes aggressive, his sexual desire restrained only by the more honourable Belville who beseeches him to “use no Violence here.”
I also think that the sense of frivolity and fun mirrors the weird and wonderful lack of morals that characterizes the Restoration. You get the sense that nothing is really taken seriously. Cue “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”.