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«EDUCATION PACK written by Mark Palmer CONTENTS Introduction About the Show The story, the background and the context of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. Creative ...»

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written by Mark Palmer



About the Show

The story, the background and the context of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE.

Creative Insight

The creative talents behind the touring production of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE share their vision for

the work and for their individual contribution to a production that “has such CHARM and ELEGANCE”

(Evening Standard)


A variety of classroom ideas, activities and starting points to broaden and enrich your visit to see


Resources & Links Ideas for reading, viewing and listening to further support your study of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE.

Please note that the contents of this pack may be copied for internal purposes only but may not be altered in any way without the express permission of both the author and of Regent’s Park Theatre.


In her unique tongue-in-cheek way, following the 1813 publication of her novel PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, Jane

Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra, expressing her opinion that:

“Upon the whole... I am well satisfied enough. The work is rather too light, and bright, and sparkling; it wants shade; it wants to be stretched out here and there with a long chapter of sense, if it could be had; if not, of solemn specious nonsense, about something unconnected with the story: an essay on writing, a critique on Walter Scott, or the history of Buonaparté, or anything that would form a contrast and bring the reader with increased delight to the playfulness and general epigrammatism of the general style.” She would doubtless be pleased to know that, 190 years later in 2003, her tale of rural gentility, of misunderstandings and enlightenment, would come second in a BBC poll to find the ‘UK’s Best-Loved Book’ (Lord of the Rings came first).

200 years after the first publication of Austen’s most celebrated work, the Regent’s Park Theatre launched its own theatrical version of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, in an adaptation by Simon Reade, to great acclaim: the Daily Mail observed that it was ”a perfect PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: skittish, comical, easy on the eye and moving.” And now, “Jane Austen’s most beloved novel re-born” (The Times) is being brought to a wider audience as it tours the country right into 2017, the year of the 200th anniversary of the death of the woman who called PRIDE AND PREJUDICE “my own darling child”.

It begins with the imminent arrival of an eligible bachelor to Netherfield Park, a significant event in the lives of the Bennet sisters, at least as far as their slightly overbearing mother is concerned. Quickly, Austen introduces one of her most popular characters in Elizabeth Bennet, along with the wealthy and attractive Fitzwilliam Darcy.

Following their unlikely courtship, Elizabeth’s pride and Darcy’s prejudice are tested and their first impressions of each other (First Impressions was Austen’s original title for the work) are found to be wanting.

As playwright Simon Reade says of this touring production of his adaptation of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE:

“I hope that students will be inspired to have another go at reading Jane Austen (her letters are a brilliant place to start), to see that theatre can be a richly rewarding job in all respects, and perhaps to become the poets of the future. I would love students to be inspired by the story and by the play that when they head into the world with a desire to change it, they will have additional fuel to think and act with even greater passion and feminism and a sense of fun.“ This Education Pack offers background information, insight and activities to support your visit to PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. Information and activities in the pack cover a range of subject areas, including drama, performing arts, English, PSHE, music, art & design and media studies.

Enjoy the show!

Mark Palmer SYNOPSIS Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty and Lydia, the five unmarried daughters of Mr and Mrs Bennet of Longbourn, Hertfordshire, receive news that a wealthy bachelor named Charles Bingley, has rented the manor at Netherfield Park nearby. As the laws of inheritance do not allow daughters to inherit a father’s estate, Mrs Bennet is determined to see her daughters well married to safeguard their futures, and sees Mr Bingley as a prime candidate for one of them.

At Mrs Bennet’s bidding, her husband pays a social visit to Mr Bingley, after which mother and daughters attend a ball at Meryton, where Bingley spends much of the evening dancing with Jane.

Meanwhile, Bingley’s friend Fitzwilliam Darcy is rude to Elizabeth, refusing to dance with her and making derogatory remarks about her and her family.

“She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me.” Fitzwilliam Darcy about Elizabeth, Chapter 3, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE “I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine.” Elizabeth Bennet about Darcy, Chapter 5, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE Over the next few weeks, the two households meet again several times, and Darcy finds himself more and more attracted to Elizabeth, but due to his behaviour at the ball, this is not reciprocated. Jane’s relationship with Bingley also develops and, delighted by an invitation to Netherfield, she is caught in a downpour, taken ill, and forced to stay for several days. To the horror of Bingley’s two snobbish sisters, Elizabeth trudges through muddy fields to Netherfield to tend to her sister and arrives with a mud-splattered dress. Caroline Bingley’s horror increases as she realises that Darcy is attracted to Elizabeth when she had designs on him herself.

Back home, Jane and Elizabeth find Mr Collins visiting. Collins is a pompous clergyman who is the heir to the Bennet estate and has every intention of marrying one of the five Bennet girls. He proposes to Elizabeth, who dents his pride by turning him down. Meanwhile, at Meryton, Elizabeth, Kitty and Lydia meet George Wickham, a young, handsome soldier who has stories to tell Elizabeth about Darcy’s cruelty in cheating him out of an inheritance. Back at Longbourn, Mr Collins proposes to Charlotte Lucas, Elizabeth’s best friend. Although she doesn’t love Collins, Charlotte believes in the importance of security and accepts.

As winter approaches, the Bingleys and Darcy return to London. Upset by this news, Jane receives correspondence from Caroline Bingley, making it clear that the family do not plan to return to Netherfield. Jane journeys to London to visit friends and hopes to see Bingley, but receives only rudeness from his sisters and does not see him at all. Elizabeth is angry, believing that there is genuine fondness between Bingley and Jane, but that he is too weak to stand up to his sisters and Darcy who want him to make a more strategic marriage.

“If I were not afraid of judging harshly, I should be almost tempted to say that there is a strong appearance of duplicity in all this.”

Jane Bennet, letter to Elizabeth, Chapter 26, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE

Charlotte Lucas and William Collins are married and Elizabeth is invited to visit them at the Parsonage at Hunsford in Kent. Within a few days, they are invited to dine with Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Darcy’s proud aunt, and her daughter Anne, whom Elizabeth has been told is likely to become Darcy’s wife. Lady Catherine herself is rude, critical and interferes in everybody’s business.

Later, it becomes clear that Darcy is to visit his aunt. The day after his arrival, he and his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, call at the parsonage. It is Charlotte’s view that Elizabeth is the attraction, and this is bourn out as Darcy looks for occasions to speak to Elizabeth, particularly when she is out taking walks alone.

Elizabeth discovers from Colonel Fitzwilliam that Mr Bingley has been put off marrying Jane by Darcy, who has told him that the union is unsuitable, and Elizabeth realises that it is Darcy who is responsible for Jane’s unhappiness.

Darcy visits Elizabeth in an agitated mood, and, without warning, proposes to her. Telling her that he is prepared to set aside the unsuitability of a marriage between them because he loves her, Elizabeth refuses, citing his treatment of Jane and Wickham as reasons for saying no. Darcy leaves angrily, but soon after delivers a letter to Elizabeth, putting his side of the two stories which Elizabeth realises is the truth and she re-evaluates Darcy. Upon returning home, however, she discovers that Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam have left. She resolves to return to Meryton.

The younger Bennet girls, Lydia and Kitty, are full of news that Mr Wickham’s regiment are to be moved from Meryton to Brighton and Lydia resolves to follow him there, despite Elizabeth’s reservations about the effectiveness of her chaperone. However, Mr Bennet lets her go.

–  –  –

Meanwhile, Elizabeth prepares to visit her uncle and aunt in the Lake District, but the plan is changed and a tour is planned to Derbyshire, taking in a visit to Darcy’s country house at Pemberley, much to Elizabeth’s discomfort.

This discomfort is eased somewhat when Elizabeth discovers that Darcy is not at Pemberley, so she allows herself to enjoy the visit. She hears from servants on the estate that Darcy is a generous master, and she begins to think more kindly towards him. To her horror, however, Darcy returns home unexpectedly and she comes face to face with him. Not mentioning his earlier proposal, he is cordial and well mannered, having apparently learned from Elizabeth’s earlier criticisms of his attitude. Elizabeth learns that when Wickham left Derbyshire, he owed money to a large number of people, and it is well known in the area that Darcy paid all of his bills. Darcy confides in Caroline Bingley of his increasing attraction towards Elizabeth.

–  –  –

Two letters arrive from Jane and it becomes clear that Lydia and Wickham have eloped. Elizabeth confides in Darcy, but is concerned that his response betrays a disapproval of her family as a result of Lydia’s actions. However, it is concern for Elizabeth, not disapproval of Lydia, that has actually caused his silence.

The lovers are found and arrangements are quickly put in place for them to marry. Elizabeth considers that Lydia’s actions have brought to an end her chances of a relationship with Darcy, and reflects that he could have been the perfect match for her. Visiting Longbourn following her marriage, however, Lydia reveals that Darcy had been at her wedding, a fact that she was supposed to have kept secret. It transpires that, in fact, it was Darcy who had brokered the marriage agreement with Wickham in order to protect Lydia’s reputation, and paid off his latest gambling debts in Brighton. He had also bought a commission in the army for Wickham, ensuring that he and Lydia would have an income.

Mrs Bennet is saddened as Lydia and Wickham leave for Newcastle, but cheers up when she learns that Mr Bingley is returning to Netherfield. It is only a few days before Bingley and Darcy visit the Bennets, but both Elizabeth and Jane find conversations difficult. Darcy soon leaves for London, but Bingley remains and his courtship with Jane is reignited, this time with his friend’s blessing. Bingley proposes and Jane accepts.

“On opening the door, she perceived her sister and Bingley standing together over the hearth, as if engaged in earnest conversation; and had this led to no suspicion, the faces of both as they hastily turned round, and moved away from each other, would have told it all.”

Mr Bingley proposing to Jane, Chapter 55, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE

Lady Catherine de Bourgh visits Longbourn. She has heard the news about Jane and Bingley and also a rumour that a similar situation may be on the cards for Elizabeth and Darcy. Furious that her daughter may miss out on marrying Darcy, she tries to force Elizabeth to promise not to agree to an engagement. Elizabeth refuses, whilst remaining painfully aware of the social gulf between her and Darcy.

On a country walk, Elizabeth finds herself alone with Darcy and is able, finally, to thank him for helping Lydia. Darcy explains that he did it for Elizabeth, and that his feelings for her have remained unaltered since the spring. Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s interference has, in fact, given him hope that, by not agreeing to her demands, Elizabeth’s feelings may have changed. They have.

Mrs Bennet is the last to hear the news, after Darcy has asked her husband for permission to marry his daughter and Elizabeth has convinced her father of her love for Darcy. Her mother has disliked Darcy, finding him rude and obnoxious, but is able to rapidly overcome her feelings when she remembers his wealth.

–  –  –


This character breakdown has been laid out as a card sort. Try printing it out, cutting up the cards, and testing your students’ understanding of the characters in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE.

–  –  –

Snobby sisters of Mr Bingley, they are untrustworthy and ill-mannered.

Caroline Bingley Ill-educated and dislikeable, they may be fashionable and have good and Louisa Hurst social standing, but their negativity serves to highlight the positive qualities of Jane and Elizabeth Bennet.

–  –  –

JANE AUSTEN Jane Austen was born in Hampshire in 1775, in the parish of Steventon, where her father, Rev George Austen was rector. As with many of the characters in her novels, she lived amongst the country gentry. The country gentry of Austen’s time included landowners, wealthy tradesmen, military men, farmers and members of the clergy. She was one of eight children, of which most were boys. She was particularly close to her sister Cassandra, and it is likely that the warmth of their relationship provided the model for her characters of Elizabeth and Jane Bennet in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE.

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