Darcy’s Body in a Film Adaptation of Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice is very famous among the film makers of the whole world. Here is an account of the film adaptation of the novel in English only.

  1. Pride and Prejudice (1938) Screenplay by: Michael Barry
  2. Pride and Prejudice (1940) MGM: feature film (114 min., black and white), Directed by: Robert Z. Leonard, Screenplay by: Aldous Huxley and Jane Murfin, Produced by: Hunt Stromberg
  3. Pride and Prejudice (1949) NBC Philco Television Playhouse (1 hour, black and white), Directed by: Fred Coe, Screenplay by: Samuel Taylor
  4. Pride and Prejudice (February 2-March 8,1952) BBC: mini-series, 6 parts (180 min., black and white), Directed and Produced by: Campbell Logan, Screenplay by: Cedric Wallis
  5. Pride and Prejudice (January 24-February 28,1958) BBC: mini-series, 6 parts (180 min., black and white), Directed and Produced by: Barbara Burnham, Screenplay by: Cedric Wallis
  6. Pride and Prejudice (September 10-October 15,1967) BBC-1:mini-series, 6 parts (180 min., black and white), Directed by: Joan Craft, Screenplay by: Nemone Lethbridge, Produced by: Campbell Logan
  7. Pride and Prejudice (1980) BBC-2 mini-series, 5 parts (226 min.), Directed by: Cyril Coke, Screenplay by: Fay Weldon, Produced by: Jonathan Powell
  8. Pride and Prejudice (1995) BBC/A&E: mini-series, 6 parts (300 min.), Directed by: Simon Langton, Screenplay by: Andrew Davies, Produced by: Sue Birtwistle
  9. Pride and Prejudice: A Latter Day Comedy (2003) Excel Entertainment Group. An LDS feature film (104 min.), Directed by: Andrew Black, Screenplay by: Anne K. Black, Jason Faller, & Katherine Swigert, Produced by: Jason Faller
  10. Bride and Prejudice (2004) Miramax Films & Pathe Pictures (1 hr. & 52 mins.), Directed by: Gurinder Chadha, Screenplay by: Paul Mayeda Berges & Gurinder Chadha, Produced by: Deepak Nayar & Gurindar Chadha
  11. Pride and Prejudice (2005) Focus Features (2hrs. 9 mins.) , Directed by: Joe Wright, Screenplay by: Deborah Moggach, Produced by: Debra Hayward
  12. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (2013) American Drama Web Series, Directed by: Hank Green, Bernie Su, Screenplay by: Margaret Dunlap, Kate Rorick, Produced by: Jenni powell
  13.  Pride and Prejudice and the Zombies (2016) Studio/ Network: Lionsgate, Directed by: Burt Steers, Screenplay by: Burt Steers, Produced by: Sue Baden-Powell, Edward H. Hamm, Jr. Phil Hunt, Compton Ross, Lauren Selig

From all these adaptations the researcher compares the Pride and Prejudice with the Film Adaptation of the novel as a Mini Series (1995) directed by Simon Langton, screenplay by Andrew Davies and produced by: Sue Birtwistle. There are many parameters to compare a novel with its film adaptation. There are some specific parameters to compare the novels of Jane Austen with their film adaptations i.e

  • Plot
  • Narrative techniques
  • Opening and ending
  • Characters
  • Role of body
  • Costumes
  • Locations and settings
  • Gothic setting
  • Balls and dances
  • Symbolic scenes
  • Role of sound and music
  • Commercial barriers

In this research paper the researcher compare the character of Darcy of the novel with the character of Darcy in the Mini Series and specially the use of his body.

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The film is not only in the verbal rewriting of Austen but figurative and visual rewriting. “Davies added several scenes to give the viewers a sense of Darcy’s life away from Elizabeth and to reveal him as a physically active and sensitive individual” (Parrill 66). The film is divided into two slightly unequal halves, part one culminating in Darcy’s first unsuccessful proposal of marriage to Elizabeth. Throughout the first half, Darcy is presented carefully and consistently in two specific ways: either in profile by a fireplace or looking out of a window. When Mr. Bingley, his sisters and Darcy make their initial appearance at the Meryton assembly, the scene is structured primarily around the interaction of their party with that of the Bennets. The Bennet sisters are for the most part shot frontally, Darcy is seen in profile. When Bingley moves forward to speak to Jane, Darcy hangs back. Finally, after the ball is over, he stands in profile by the fireplace at Netherfield, discussing the event with Bingley and his sisters.

At the dance at Lucas Lodge, the same emphasis is maintained. Darcy stands in profile by a mirror and is also seen reflected in another direction opposite it. While Elizabeth and Charlotte discuss him, his head is seen in profile between them. When Elizabeth visits Jane at Netherfield, the Bingley sisters discuss her unexpected appearance; he first stands in the profile by the window and then turns to gaze out of it. When the discussion is going on Darcy is shown full-face, centre-screen, with his eyes fixed meditatively on someone whom the audience cannot see, but may well presume to be Elizabeth. The moment is significant not only in the development of the narrative but also in the representation of Darcy, for even as Elizabeth becomes the object of his gaze, he himself is clearly offered as the object of ours.

The scene which shortly follows is one of the most famous of Andrew Davies’s addition to the original novel. Darcy is seen in the bath; the audience is shown only his back and shoulders before a servant covers him with a robe. He gazes down from the window to where Elizabeth plays with a dog. Once again he looks at her and the audience look at him. From the bath scene onwards, Darcy looking at Elizabeth becomes a recurrent and compelling image, used both to provide a crucial insight into his character and to build up a powerful erotic charge, of which he is clearly the centre. When Elizabeth and Jane leave Netherfield, Darcy watches their departure from the window.

After the first proposal of Darcy, the first part of the film comes to an end. Elizabeth’s dismissal of him is heard in the voice-over. Returning to his aunt’s house, he immediately rushes upstairs. The audience follow him into his bedroom and see him at once begin to write the letter, which the audience hear reading in voice-over. As the voice-over continues, he moves away from the desk and looks out of the window, through which the audience see a flashback to his Cambridge days. Looking disgusted, Darcy closes the door and he plunges his face into a basin of water. The episode shows the next section of the letter, in which the audience is cut from Darcy writing to Elizabeth reading. The audience hear of his comments on the Bingley episode and particularly on Jane’s apparent lack of response. The whole question of sexual attraction and female desire is sharply highlighted. “Darcy’s body is obviously not just a body but a medium of emotional expression” (Troost 24).

After Elizabeth’s departure from Kent, Darcy temporarily disappears from the narrative. In the novel he does not re-enter until Elizabeth unexpectedly encounters him at Pemberley. In the adaptation, Andrew Davies has added another episode: Just as Elizabeth and the Gardiners make their trip to North, Mr. Darcy is seen fencing with a professional. As the professional leaves, Darcy mutters between his teeth, “I shall conquer this…I shall!” At Pemberley Darcy is seen dripping deep in the lake. These two scenes are added in the film adaptation for the 20th century audience.

The emotional dialogue with the self is best expressed in the film by physical exertion. Unlike the film the novel does not express Darcy’s continued emotional struggle. When Darcy and Elizabeth are separated, the readers learn nothing of his thoughts and actions. The novel leaves the readers, like Elizabeth, uncertain of Darcy’s emotions. The film allows no such questioning of the relationships. The director has added the masculine physical actions to show Darcy’s growing and continuing love. The film’s interest in Darcy’s bodily struggle with his emotions is best evidenced by the scene in which he writes a letter responding to Elizabeth’s rejection of his first marriage proposal. In the novel, the letter’s text is given to the readers after it has been received by Elizabeth. The letter is voiced by Elizabeth as she reads the letter. In contrast, the film gives the viewers the text of the letter as Darcy is writing it. The letter is read aloud by Darcy, not Elizabeth. The mental activity of reading is translated into the physical activity of writing. The letter becomes a means of showing Darcy’s emotional depth and conveying the struggle at self-expression. A quiet scene of silent reading is emotionally charged with the masculine activity. This is how the twentieth century expresses the masculinity which is not found in Jane Austen.

Immediately after being rejected by Elizabeth Darcy returns to his aunt Lady Catherine’s Rosings Park. He avoids the gathering party and rushes up-stairs, breathing heavily and entering his bedroom in an agitated manner. He immediately sits down at his desk and starts to write. After a few sentences, he is overcome by emotion and sets his pen down. He stands up and walks over to the window, deep in thought. The film chooses not to show him composing his letter in a rational manner but to display him composing his letter as a part of deeply personal process of revealing his past. While gazing out of his window, a set of flashback scenes remind Darcy of his troubled relationship with, Wickham, displaying their shared childhood, shared time at school etc. The letter writing scene ends with a dishevelled Darcy washing his face and groaning, the implication being that he has been up all night. He returns to his room and violently, even painfully, extinguishes his candle with his bare fingers. His physically tortured night reflects his tortured emotions.

There are many scenes in the film which are full of emotional excess; Darcy’s physical actions also demonstrate restraints. Darcy’s silent staring out of a window serves as a repeated motif in the movie. Darcy quite literally turns his back on any gathering to watch Elizabeth come and go at Netherfield, Rosings Park and Pemberley. He similarly turns his back on any gathering that discusses Elizabeth’s charms or faults. He refrains from showing any emotion to the others, yet the viewers can see this show of physical restraint as an expression of emotion.

Darcy’s intense stare becomes more and more interactive over the course of the film, drawing Elizabeth into it. Most strikingly, when Darcy and Elizabeth have reunited at Pemberley, the film collapses together several drawing-room conversations, creating a scene in which Elizabeth helps Georgiana with her piano playing. Darcy stares lovingly at Elizabeth, who overlooks Georgiana at the pianoforte; she raises her hand and confidently looks back at him, and they exchange telling smiles. Later that evening, after the guests have retired, Darcy takes a candlelit walk back to the music room, leans on a mirrored fireplace, and looks longingly at the pianoforte. A flashback allows him to relive the image of Elizabeth’s smiling face. While the essence of Austen’s drawing room conversation has been maintained, the film adds a nonverbal series of glances, smiles and flashbacks which become the force of the scene.

Elizabeth’s rejection of Darcy’s first marriage proposal can be read as a rejection due to his inability to voice his full emotions. Compared with his billiard playing, bathing, fencing, and swimming, Darcy’s proposal seems restrained; although he expresses his love, he is unable to put his hidden emotions into a verbal vocabulary that matches the intensity of his physical vocabulary. Viewing the film, audience feel Elizabeth is right to reject him. He has not given full expression to the depth of the emotions. In contrast, the novel can be read as constructing the scene according to completely opposite dictates. Darcy’s proposal is rejected because he has displayed too much of his emotions rather than too little. Darcy does not show proper courtship restraint and propose according to proper social form. Austen’s Darcy has suddenly displayed too much emotional freedom; he expresses his love openly and then openly states the frustrating barriers his love has overcome.

In the film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice: the bathing scene of Darcy, Darcy’s fencing with a professional and his dripping deep in the lake, Darcy’s bodily struggle when he is rejected by Elizabeth for the second time, the non-verbal series of glances, smiles and flashbacks of Darcy and Elizabeth at Pemberley are some of the additions by the film maker. Austen’s Darcy expresses his love very openly but the Darcy in the film adaptation does not show proper courtship and propose according to proper social form. Darcy and Elizabeth exchange a kiss at the end of the film adaptation which is not found in the novel.

The modern film adaptation emphasizes different aspects of Jane Austen’s novels. The BBC/A&E Pride and Prejudice (1995) contains the scenes of kiss and Darcy’s cool passion with a dip in the pond. By introducing the scenes lacking in the novel; the film adaptation faces both criticism and appreciation. There is a big reading mass of Jane Austen who considers this addition inauthentic material and for them it affects the cultural value of an Austen experience and it is a betrayal or a negative addition.


  1. Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. New Jersey: A Watermill Classics, 1981. Print.
  2. Parrill, Sue. Jane Austen on Film and Television: A Critical Study of the Adaptation. North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2002. Print.
  3. Troost, Linda & Greenfield, Sayre. ed. Jane Austen in Hollywood. Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky, 2001. Print.

Dr. Narendra K. Patel, Assistant Professor,  Shri P. K. Chaudhari Mahila Arts College, Sector-7, Gandhinagar

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