Het is vandaag 210 jaar geleden dat “Pride and Prejudice” is verschenen, de beroemde roman van de Engelse schrijfster Jane Austen.

It’s no wonder that in 1936 Alan Alexander Milne dramatized her most popular work “Pride and Prejudice” into “Miss Elizabeth Bennet”.
The characters are Mrs.Bennet, the match-making mother; Collins, the sycophantic clergyman; the imperious “great Lady” Catherine de Bourgh (a hell of a woman); and Elizabeth, the gay, clever young woman whose “Prejudice” is matched with the “Pride” of Darcy, the haughty aristocrat, who’s good beneath the skin (Milne changed his character a bit in the sense that he gave him a twist of irony).
Act one, scene one.
Charles Bingley (23) has taken possession of Netherfield Park and Mrs.Bennet wants him to marry one of her five daughters (between 15 and 22). Mr.Bennet however is more interested in Mr.Darcy (£10,000 a year!), although he is “ear-marked” for miss Bingley, Charles’ sister.
JANE (elder sister of Elizabeth): Did you see Mr.Darcy?
MR.BENNET: It was enough to feel his influence. While I talked of the beauties of the neighbourhood, Mr.Bingley talked of the beauties of Darcy. Being alone together in the library, we saw nothing of either, and had to take each other’s word for it. (p.8-9)
Mr.Bennet is a delightfully humorous character (a 16+ for him!) but there is so little action that this play seems to me unsuitable for the stage. All of the action in this first scene consists in the fact that someone will come to stay with them.
MRS.BENNET: It is your cousin Mr.Collins to whom the estate is entailed; who, as soon as your father is dead, can turn us all out of this house just whenever he pleases. (p.9)
He has become a clergyman recently and as there is no son in the Bennet household he will probably inherit Longbourn. He is patronaged by Lady de Bourgh.
Act one, scene two.
Darcy is too proud to dance, but Elizabeth matches his pride. He tells miss Bingley (who’s in love with him) plainly that Lizzy has caught his eye. Bingley himself is in love with Jane. However, the Bennets seem to be “unworthy” of either Bingley or Darcy.
Lizzy is talking to George Wickham, who has been brought up by Darcy’s father. This man left a good deal of his fortune to Wickham, but Darcy disregarded the will.
Act one, scene three.
Collins wants to marry Jane “to make amends for the injustice which I seem to do them by inheriting Longbourn” (p.34), but as Jane is “likely to be soon engaged to a Mr.Bingley” (p.34), he asks Mr.Bennet the hand of Elizabeth. Later on they are left alone by mrs.Bennet in her role of match-maker, but Elizabeth refuses his proposal. Her father is backing her and her mother turns to her younger sister Mary.
Act one, scene four.
Darcy is trying to tear Bingley away from Jane (in fact, till now, it is not clear why the title of the play places Elizabeth in the spotlights). At the same time Darcy and Lizzy are getting along together, while Bingley has refused Jane. Collins on the other hand is getting married to miss Charlotte Lucas, who’s about as stupid as he is.
Act two, scene one.
Elizabeth is visiting Mrs. Charlotte Collins to talk about the sorrows of Jane. Anne, the sickly daughter of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, is said to marry Darcy. Mrs.Collins does not seem too happy as she will go courting Darcy and Lizzy gets his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, to look after.
Act two, scene two.
In the discussion it appears that Elizabeth insisted on her showing the garden to Darcy. All this is really a storm in a tea-cup. Why bother to write a book or a play about it?
Act two, scene three.
Darcy admits his love for Elizabeth, but the point is that he is now doing exactly the same thing he had prevented Bingley to do. However, she rejects him. Darcy defends himself by saying that Wickham, who wanted to elope with Darcy’s 15-year-old sister, was a bad character and that he didn’t know that Jane loved Bingley.
Act three, scene one.
Elizabeth is visiting Darcy’s estate, when Darcy enters unexpectedly. They are reconciled. He is more charming now.
Act three, scene two.
Wickham, who is definitely interested in 15 year olds, has fled with Lydia, the youngest of the Bennet sisters. Mrs.Bennet has a 19th nervous breakdown. Mr.Bennet will try to “bribe” Wickham to marry Lydia by giving him £10,000 (which he has not). Lady Catherine enters to tell Elizabeth that she will oppose a marriage between her and Catherine’s nephew Darcy, because of the disgrace and… because he’s engaged to her daughter. Observe that it’s not his idea, their mutual parents have decided it.
Act three, scene three.
Darcy is seeing Lydia and Wickham. Wickham is only poking fun at her. Darcy is bribing him. He accepts.
Act three, scene four.
A week later Mrs.Bennet is already chattering everything away. Bingley and Darcy come courting…

Ronny De Schepper

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