Pride and Prejudice – adaptations

As part of our celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice, one of our Triborough Stock Librarian, Elin Jones has written about the various adaptations of this wonderful book.

The Pride and Prejudice BBC TV adaptation in 1995 has gone a long way in marketing the 1813 wonderfully romantic Jane Austen novel.

Here are a few facts around the series.

1.The Dialogue for Pride and Prejudice

Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennett
Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennett

On learning the script for the TV series, Jennifer Ehle who played the part of Elizabeth Bennet said:

It’s the hardest dialogue I’ve ever had to learn. Shakespeare is a doddle compared to Jane Austen. I think this is essentially because the sense of the line comes at the end of it and also the lines are much longer. When I get to the end of a sentence I usually say, “Oh, I see!” and then I have to go back and read it again. Sometimes the thoughts are quite convoluted – you do all these hairpin bends – so it takes some getting used to. But it’s like anything – by the end I found it much easier to learn. It’s like learning another language.

 (There’s more information on the Jennifer Ehle blog.)

2. Production

Pride and Prejudice was a  six-hour, one million pounds per episode production: an estimated 40 million Brits watched as the book was brought to life in 1995.

3. The Hero

Colin Firth as Mr Darcy
Colin Firth as Mr Darcy

The perfect Regency hero, Colin Firth, shot to fame in his role as Mr Darcy. You need go no further than the lake scene to realise his suitability for the role! The Guardian called it ‘one of the most unforgettable moments in British TV history’

Colin Firth felt he was the last person who should play the part. He thought he just wasn’t sexy enough, and had major doubts about his ability to bring the character to life. He said:

You really can’t walk into a room and start acting your socks off, and doing all sorts of ambitious things, because Darcy wouldn’t do that. But not doing anything is one of the most difficult things about acting.

It was the scripts that made Colin change his mind. There’s more information about this on the BBC website.

Other actors who have played the role include Lawrence Olivier, Matthew McFayden, Peter Cushing, Patrick Macnee (!) and David Rintoul, whilst Greer Garson and Keira Knightley have embraced the role of Elizabeth Bennett.

In the second annual Regency Awards, held by the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, Colin Firth’s 1995 portrayal of Mr Darcy received more than half of all votes cast.

What modern day Darcy would you like to see in the role? Let us know in the comments section below!

4. The Adaptation

Andrew Davis adapted the book for TV, and went on to do Vanity Fair and Sense and Sensibility as well as writing the screenplay for Middlemarch and collaborating on the screenplay for both Bridget Jones films.

5. The Music

Carl Davis wrote the music score for the series and used Beethoven’s septet in E Flat Major, Opus 20 as the inspiration for his music. The Barley Mow was used as dance music.

6.The Setting

Lyme Park in Cheshire was used for the filming of Pride and Prejudice.

7. Further Films and Books

As well as the Bridget Jones offshoots where Colin Firth ‘reprised’ the role of Darcy, there are other films and books that have emerged or have connections to the original novel.

Lost in Austen
Lost in Austen

Lost in Austen, a mini TV series about Amanda Price (Jemima Rooper), a devoted Jane Austen fan, unsatisfied with her life and relationship in modern day London. Her very ordinary existence is changed forever when she discovers Elizabeth Bennet (Gemma Arterton) in her bathroom and ends up replacing her in the ‘real’ fictional world of Pride and Prejudice.

Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James
Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James

Death comes to Pemberley,  a P.D. James murder mystery set six years after the marriage of Darcy and Elizabeth.

The Pemberley Chronicles by Rebecca Ann Collins
The Pemberley Chronicles by Rebecca Ann Collins

The Pemberley Chronicles by Rebecca Ann Collins – a sequel to Pride and Prejudice.

My So-Called Life by Joanna Nadin
My So-Called Life by Joanna Nadin

And Pride and Prejudice even stretches to My So-Called Life: the Diary of Rachel Riley by Joanna Nadin – the main character’s adopted dog eats her Pride and Prejudice boxed collection!

All of these adaptations, sequels etc are available to borrow from our libraries – have a look on our catalogue. We also have as well a great many other Austen classics and BBC TV classics.

If you want to go the extra mile – there is a copy of The Making of Pride and Prejudice by Susie Conklin and Sue Birtwistle in Westminster Reference Library.

Elin Jones
Elin Jones

Elin Jones

Triborough Stock Librarian


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