Elizabeth Bennet- not only does she have the best forename in existence (I might be biased), she is also one of the most beloved heroines of classic literature. Somehow Elizabeth has stood against time as an adored protagonist and as she continues to be adapted in various media forms (comics, webseries, movies), I never tire of her. When the BBC aired Pride and Prejudice in 1995, a shock-wave was sent through the zeitgeist and Austenmania was in full-swing. Elizabeth Bennet has become both modern and classic. Here are my favorite adaptations of the character:
BBC’s Pride and Prejudice miniseries
Jennifer Ehle brought Elizabeth to life as a playful, down-to-Earth heroine in this popular 1995 adaptation. Here, she has the right combination of serenity and willfulness that keeps her relatable and amusing. She has a certain maturity, remaining poised in social situations and sensible compared to her younger sisters, but with limits. When she comes across someone she doesn’t like (Darcy or Lady De Bourgh), Elizabeth stews over their insults and wrongdoings. When Sir Lucas tells Darcy to dance with her she says, “Indeed, Sir, I have not the least intention of dancing. Please don’t suppose I moved this way to beg for a partner.”
This Elizabeth is quick to return to her simple, joyful nature as soon as an irritation passes. She finds amusement everywhere around her and frequently pokes fun at herself as well.
Pride & Prejudice (2005)
Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth might be my favorite. Here is the heroine that I would love to emulate- or
befriend. This Lizzie is headstrong, outspoken, witty, and amused. Something I learned from her: laugh at everything. She finds humor in the people around her, life’s little oddities, and the faults in herself and others. When she first sees Darcy at the ball, she snickers to herself at his cold, proud stature as he walks by. She delights in the time spent with her sister and family by laughing when they get silly about men and finding husbands. Knightley’s portrayal also brings to life her acute awareness of the world around her and herself, knowing when to laugh and when to be serious. This Elizabeth is also very passionate about her family, friends, reading, and life’s beauty. When Caroline Bingley says, “Good Lord, Miss Elizabeth, did you walk here?” She bluntly replies, “I did. I’m so sorry, how is my sister?”
Of course, she wouldn’t be Elizabeth Bennet if she was willing to settle in love, but I do like that this Elizabeth seems to be completely indifferent to romance all together. She is content with herself and her life, not needing to pine over men or plan some dream wedding.
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries
The modern Elizabeth Bennet, played by Ashley Clements, is brought to life in this webseries. In this series, she is a 24 year old grad student studying Mass Media, single, living at home with her parents and two sisters, and generally trying to figure out what to do with her life. I love this series. It’s fun, well produced and is perfectly translated from Austen’s time to today.
This Lizzie is a little more obviously flawed, constantly poking fun at her family and holding a targeted grudge against Darcy, which makes up most of what she talks about in her video blogs. Lizzie doesn’t believe in settling, whether for a man or a job, she would rather hold out for things to come into her life that are right for her. Instead of settling for a job that pays well, if she doesn’t agree ethically with the company then she’s not interested. Same with her dating life, which is why she quickly moves on when a douchey Wickham stops calling. While this virtue of being true to herself is at her core, she isn’t perfect (that would be boring) and sometimes worries over her future- or lack of. Who doesn’t.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Though not the best adaptation of the novel- frankly, weird and a bit convoluted- I do like this fiery fighting, slaying Elizabeth (Lily James). She is headstrong and would rather rely on her own skills than anyone else’s. She is an expert swords-woman, who cares more about defending her family than society and social graces.
This film blends zombie-fighting action with a close narrative and similar dialogue to the classic novel. We find Elizabeth holding her own against Darcy as usual and remaining strong willed against her mother, who would like to see her married off. Darcy first proposes marriage before clearing the air between them and Elizabeth refuses him (as always), leading to a dual. When Darcy tells her that he intentionally separated her sister and Mr. Bingley, she responds with a kick in the chest. Extreme measures, but that’s the tone of the film. I like this Elizabeth’s willfulness.
Who is your favorite adapted Elizabeth Bennet? Leave a comment.