“I am afraid,” replied Elinor, “that the pleasantness of an employment does not always evince its propriety.”
“On the contrary, nothing can be a stronger proof of it, Elinor; for if there had been any real impropriety in what I did, I should have been sensible of it at the time, for we always know when we are acting wrong, and with such a conviction I could have had no pleasure.” Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 13
Some say that Jane Austen’s novel Sense and Sensibility is her darkest, dealing with the struggle of the principles of common sense against free sensibility, the English inheritance laws of stifling primogeniture and it’s crushing affect on the female line, and the ever-present question of marrying for love, or money?
All of these critical issues are addressed in the new BBC adaptation of Austen’s novel Sense and Sensibility which will be presented on Masterpiece Classic on Sunday, March 30th and April 6th at 9:00 pm on PBS.
Adapted by Andrew Davies, of Pride and Prejudice fame, it aired in the UK in January to mixed reviews that were mostly favorable. Never one to miss an opportunity to stir the pot, Davies continues on his theory that Jane Austen is all about sex by adding some provocative scenes and enhancements to the story to suit his purpose; in order to make the story accessible and interesting to the modern audience by sexing up relationships and showing what Jane Austen implied, but did not write!
Never one to shun a good story, I have mixed feelings about this approach that I will discuss further in my review of episode one on Monday. In the meantime, I hope that you find this cast preview helpful. Sense and Sensibility has a very large list of characters in the novel, each of which adds to the progress of the plot, and reminds us of Jane Austen’s talent as a keen observer of human nature, foibles and all.
Miss Elinor Dashwood (Hattie Morahan). Heroine age 19. Unmarried, eldest daughter of the late Henry Dashwood of Norland Park, Sussex and Mrs. Dashwood, recently of Barton Cottage, Devonshire. Dowry of 1000 pounds. Sensible, responsible and reserved. Some-what saintly in her abilities to place the welfare of her friends and family above her own concerns. Elinor’s strong good ‘sense’ and her stoic composure can be a comfort to her family, but stifles her emotions and can be interpreted as coldness by others.
Miss Marianne Dashwood (Charity Wakefield). Heroine age 16. Unmarried, second daughter of the late Henry Dashwood of Norland Park, Sussex and Mrs. Dashwood, recently of Barton Cottage, Devonshire. Dowry of 1000 pounds. Romantic, spontaneous and unguarded, she frequently thinks with her heart over her head, and often lacks proper propriety. Quick to judge, and often intolerant of different temperaments than her own, her ‘sensibility’ causes concern to her sister Elinor, and places her outside of societies dictum.
Mrs. Dashwood (Janet McTeer). Widow, age 40. Second wife of Henry Dashwood (recently deceased) of Norland Park, Sussex. Now of Barton Cottage, Devonshire owned by her cousin Sir John Middleton. Mother of Elinor, Marianne and Margaret. Step-mother to John Dashwood. Unprepared for widowhood and the responsibilities of their new diminished financial situation. She and her daughter Marianne share an emotional and impulsive temperament, often making decisions based on feelings rather than reason.
Miss Margaret Dashwood (Lucy Boynton). Child, age 13. Third daughter of the late Henry Dashwood of Norland Park, Sussex and Mrs. Dashwood, recently of Barton Cottage, Devonshire. Dowry of 1000 pounds. Good-humored and well-disposed. Romantically influenced by her older sister Marianne, she is inexperienced and adventurous. Her character is expanded in the movie and serves as the inquisitor, often asking critical questions that her family needs to know, but because of propriety, can not ask.
Edward Ferrars (Dan Stevens). Hero. Bachelor, age 23 of Oxford. Son of Mrs. Ferrars (father deceased), brother of Fanny and Robert. Heir to the Ferrars fortune and his mother’s hope to achieve public status and distinction in politics. Educated, amiable and highly eligible, he is attentive to Elinor but guarded, distant and troubled at times. Secretly engage to Lucy Steele for four years hence. Honorable and principled, he is willing to forgo his fortune and future happiness to keep his word instead of being with the woman he loves.
Mrs. Ferrars (Jean Marsh). Widow of Park Street, London. Mother of Edward, Robert and Fanny. “a little, thin woman, upright to formality, in her figure, and serious, even to sourness, in her aspect.” The wealthy, manipulative and officious matriarch of the Ferrars family. Her son Edward is her favorite, and she and his sister Fanny “longed to see him distinguished” in public life. He prefers the opposite, a quiet private life. Money and social position are her precept. Her attempts to control her children’s lives by threats of disinheritance are feared, but shallow, as they all choose their own rout anyway.
Mrs. Fanny Dashwood (Claire Skinner). Wife of John Dashwood of Norland Park, Sussex who is half brother of the Dashwood sisters. Daughter of Mrs. Ferrars, sister of Edward and Robert Ferrars. Mother of Little Henry (Harry) Dashwood. Arrogant, manipulative and selfish she knows the true value of a pence, and convinces her weak-minded husband to keep as much of the recently inherited Dashwood fortune as possible, slighting the second Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters, and forcing them into poverty.
John Willoughby (Dominic Cooper). Bachelor, age 25 of Combe Magna, Somersetshire. Nephew of Mrs. Smith and heir of her estate Allenham Court, Devonshire. An outwardly dashing romantic Byron-esque hero, but in actuality, is an unprincipled deceitful rogue who trifles with young ladies affections by courting them for his own amusement. Later revealed to be a seducer, he is disinherited and is compelled to marry for money because he has squandered his own fortune. Ironically, he later regrets his marriage after his inheritance in restored. His callous quest for money over love is his downfall.
Mrs. Jennings (Linda Bassett). Widow of Berkeley-street in London. Mother to Lady Middleton of Barton Park, Devonshire and Charlotte Palmer of Cleveland, Somersetshire. Talkative, overactive matchmaker who is often an embarrassment to the Dashwood’s. Wealthy empty-nester, bored, and determined to find matches for the Dashwood sisters. Gregarious, unrefined and excessively fond of gossip and a good tale, her well intentioned meddling into the Dashwood sister’s love lives is often unwelcome.
Miss Anne (Nancy) Steele (Daisy Haggard). Unmarried, age nearing 30, of Exeter. Mr. Pratt of Plymouth’s niece. Sister to Lucy Steele. Cousin of Lady Middleton of Barton Park, Devonshire. “With a very plain and not a sensible face, nothing to admire.” All “vulgar freedom and folly“. On the quest for prodigious, handsome, smart, and agreeable beaus. Can’t keep a secret, and often says the wrong thing and admits as much. Aggressively in pursuit of beaxs. Unguarded, revealing her sister Lucy’s secret.
Miss Lucy Steele (Anna Madeley). Unmarried, age 22, of Exeter. Mr. Pratt of Plymouth’s niece. Sister to Anne Steele. Cousin of Lady Middleton of Barton Park, Devonshire. Monstrous pretty and naturally clever, but unrefined and uneducated, whose nature “joined insincerity with ignorance.” Secretly engaged to Edward Ferrars for four years hence, using this to hold Elinor at bay. A sly, scheming gold-digger, she is a chameleon of many colors, changing her alliances to suit her pocketbook.
Colonel Brandon (David Morrissey). Hero. Bachelor, age 35, of Delaford in Dorsetshire. 2000 pounds a year. Retired from the Army. Rheumatic and wears flannel waistcoats. Over-the-hill, infirmed and past romance according to Marianne. “if he were ever animated enough to be in love, must have long outlived every sensation of the kind.”. Sentimental. In his youth, he fell in love with a young woman who reminds him of Marianne, but his family did not approve of the match, and he was packed off into the army and sent aboard. Stoic, practical, and steadfast, his amiable qualities eventually outweigh his age.
Enjoy the new TV adaptation!
- Read our review of Sense and Sensibility Episode One
- Read our review of Sense and Sensibility Episode Two
Images courtesy of Masterpiece Classic PBS © 2008; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2008, Austenprose.com
Excellent description of the characters. I look forward to your review on Monday!
I’m not so sure that Edward is a hero for this novel. What about all the frustration he causes for Elinor & Co.? Does the fact that his fate propagates the pleasure of the Dashwoods automatically raise him to hero status?
Heroes can have their faults too. :-)