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Pride and Prejudice
  original novel: Jane Austen
dramatization: Helen Jerome
adaptation: Myer Leonard
music: Charles Pizer
lyrics: Myer Leonard
Brief Synopsis:

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." Through this satirical opening line in Jane Austen's novel, Pride and Prejudice, the author provides us with a glimpse of and into her keen wit and exquisite sense of humor. A comedy–drama of manners, the story — set in late–eighteenth–century England — deals cleverly and artfully with the societal prescriptions of the day…

In this adaptation, the Bennet family consists of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and their three daughters who are of marriageable age. Comfortably well–to–do, the family resides in the country, about 50 miles outside London. Mrs. Bennet is relentlessly and unremittingly obsessed with the (mostly justifiable) concern that, if her husband should predecease her, she will be ejected from her home — a fear stemming from the fact that, at that time, progenitor was the law of the land: property could only be inherited by a male heir. And as she and her husband have no sons — making the heir–apparent a cousin by the name of Mr. Collins — Mrs. Bennet frets that if none of her daughters marry prior to what she views as the imminent death of her husband, she will then have no home to go to, and would thus be left "on the parish" — a form of welfare.

The Bennet daughters are Jane (the "second" heroine), who romantically favors a wealthy young man new to their neighborhood, Mr. Bingley, whom Jane will come to marry; Elizabeth (the heroine), sharp–eyed, –witted, and –tongued, who will eventually marry Mr. Darcy (the hero) — a friend of Bingley's, Darcy is wealthy, aristocratic, arrogant, and somewhat forbidding; and Lydia, impetuous and overtly flirtatious, who elopes with a ne'er–do–well army officer, Wickham.

Darcy disapproves of Bingley's obvious infatuation with Jane, in part because of the less–than–desirable behavior exhibited by certain members of her family — in particular, her emotionally high–strung mother, and her imprudent sister, Lydia. In order to remove Bingley from the dangers of an impulsive commitment, Darcy and Bingley's sister contrive to have him leave his country dwelling and go to London. Too quick to interpret Bingley's departure as his rejection of her, Jane lapses into a deep depression. Sensitive to the situation, and hoping to keep Jane within Bingley's social sphere, Mrs. Bennet arranges for her daughter to visit her aunt and uncle, who, not coincidentally, are based in London.

As previously stated, the heir to the Bennet Estate, in the event of Mr. Bennet's death, is Mr. Collins — a sycophantic, obsequious, opportunistic clergyman. Still a bachelor, he is in the employ of the high–and–mighty Lady Catherine de Bourgh — who happens to be Darcy's aunt, and who abides by her long–asserted assumption that Darcy shall wed her daughter… Collins descends on the Bennet home for a short stay, principally to announce that his patroness, Lady Catherine, has urged him to marry. Knowing he has three very eligible and attractive cousins — Jane, Elizabeth, and Lydia — he intends to select one of them to be his wife. Ultimately, he proposes to Elizabeth who promptly rejects him! On the rebound, he then, instead, marries one of her friends — Charlotte Lucas. After the wedding, Elizabeth is invited to their home, and while there, is re–acquainted with Darcy; and she is introduced to the imperious Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

Darcy finds he has been struck not only by Elizabeth's physical beauty, but also by her sharp intellect and witty observations, as well as the fact that she is not in the least intimidated by him. He proposes marriage to her — presented in such condescending, denigrating fashion that Elizabeth flatly refuses him, and proceeds to tell Darcy, in no uncertain terms, the reasons for her rejection!

Meanwhile, Lydia has, by now, absconded with a penniless army officer, Wickham — an elopement that is the cause of great shame and disgrace to the Bennet family. Mr. Bennet pursues the errant Lydia and her suitor, and obliges them to marry — at the cost of paying off all of Wickham's outstanding debts, and, in addition, giving the couple the substantial sum of ten thousand pounds. Elizabeth discovers that the amount was actually paid by Darcy… largely the result of his overriding sense of guilt for not properly warning the Bennets about Wickham's past reprehensible behavior and dishonorable intentions, including an attempt to ensnare Darcy's own sister into an elopement — an event which Darcy narrowly managed to prevent. Upon learning of Darcy's extraordinary generosity, accomplished with the utmost discretion, Elizabeth's inclinations towards him change.

Some time after Jane's return home from London, Bingley also returns to his manor house in the country; and when their affections for one another are reaffirmed, they announce their betrothal. And shortly thereafter, following a most unpleasant confrontation between Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Elizabeth — wherein Lady Catherine attempts, in vain, to force Elizabeth into agreeing she will refuse Darcy in any offers of marriage — Darcy once more approaches Elizabeth, expressing his ardent love for her; and this time… finally… his feelings for her are returned in kind!

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