One of the main themes in my upcoming release of Pride and Prejudice and a Shakespearean Scholar: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary is the use William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew as a basis of the interaction between Darcy and Elizabeth. My story DOES NOT follow Shakespeare’s play exactly, but there is enough similarity in the two for a lover of Shakespeare to take note. Of Shakespeare’s comedies, Taming of the Shrew and Much Ado About Nothing are my favorites.
For those of you who have never read or seen a production of Taming of the Shrew, here is a brief synopsis provided by No Sweat Shakespeare: “The play opens as the student Lucentio arrives in Padua. He hears that the merchant Baptista has two daughters, but the younger, prettier daughter, Bianca, cannot be married before her strong-willed sister, Katherina. On seeing Bianca Lucentio falls in love with her and changes identities with his servant Tranio. Bianca already has two suitors, but doesn’t like either. The elderly Gremio hires Lucentio, disguised as a Latin tutor, to woo Bianca on his behalf, while Hortensio disguises himself as a musician to get access to her. Meanwhile Petruchio, a young adventurer from Verona, arrives to visit hisfriend Hortensio. He learns about Katherina and decides to woo her, aided by both Gremio and Hortensio.
“Baptista is enthusiastic about Petruchio’s suit because the feisty Katherina is a burden to him and is continually quarreling with her sister and with him. Petruchio will not be put off as he woos Kate and he fixes their wedding day. At the church, where Kate unwillingly awaits him, Petruchio arrives in an absurd outfit and after the ceremony he leaves for Verona immediately, with his new wife. On reaching there Kate is mistreated by Petruchio and his servants, and is denied food and sleep. To teach her to obey him Petruchio does not allow her new clothes or a hat. Eventually, worn down by her husband’s relentless eccentricity, Kate submits and accepts all his eccentricities. They set off to visit her father in Padua.
“On the journey the couple meet Vincentio, Lucentio’s wealthy father, who is subjected to a strange conversation as Petruchio tests Kate’s obedience. The three reach Padua where Hortensio, rejected by Bianca, has married a widow and Baptista has been tricked into believing a passing stranger is Tranio’s rich father. While Vincentio attempts to unravel the complexities of the situation his son Lucentio returns from a secret wedding with Bianca.
“Nevertheless, Baptista holds a wedding feast for both his daughters. As the men relax after their meal Petruchio devises a competition to prove whose wife is the most obedient. Bianca and the widow fail to come to their husbands when called while Kate lectures the women on the duties of a wife.”
One of my favorite film adaptations of the story stars Richard Burton as Petruchio and Elizabeth Taylor as Katherina. When I taught school, I often showed my students excerpts from the teenage-geared film Ten Things I Hate About You, starring Julia Stiles as Kat and the late Heath Ledger as Patrick. In both these films, there is a scene where Petruchio/Patrick must “persuade” Katerina/Kat that he means to marry/date her.
Below, find my version of this contest. Darcy has compromised Elizabeth by kissing her at the Meryton Assembly. She thinks her father will cover up her indiscretion, but Mr. Bennet says otherwise. Elizabeth then means to avoid Mr. Darcy and his marriage proposal.
Excerpt from Chapter 11:
Darcy stormed across the lawn toward the Longbourn stables, but drew up short when the building came into sight. “How in blazes am I to persuade a woman who barely tolerates my presence to spend the remainder of her days as my wife?” Uncertain how to proceed, he stared up at the wooden structure before him and back to the house. He imagined that canny old Shakespearean scholar was pointing toward the stable, urging Darcy on. “Bennet is as crazy as his daughter,” Darcy grumbled. “I should up and leave them all to share in their delirium.”
But he knew he would not act so dishonorably. Moreover, the idea of marrying Miss Elizabeth Bennet had taken root in his soul. It was as Bennet purported. The woman would enliven Darcy’s days. With a heavy sigh, Darcy closed his eyes, attempting to steel his resolve. He had come to Hertfordshire to escape the guilt he felt in failing Georgiana and to escape Lady Catherine’s marital manipulations, only to land in a trap of his own making. “At least, I can say my future bride did not apply her arts and allurements to bring me to task.” Darcy chuckled to himself. “Certainly did not expect a dip in a creek to lead to marriage vows.”
With that, he strode forward. Reaching the stable door, he swung it wide with enough force to announce his presence to this intended. “Going somewhere, my dear?”
* * *
When the door banged against the side wall, Elizabeth jumped. She had hoped to be absent when Mr. Darcy came calling. “I am not your ‘dear,’” she said baldly. Her shoulders shifted in a defensive manner. Unsurprisingly, so did Mr. Darcy’s.
The gentleman held his position, and for that, Elizabeth was thankful. She did not think she could tolerate his touch at this moment, for the memory of his hands caressing her back were all to familiar. “I disagree. Your father and I have spoken, and you are to be ‘my dear’ for the remainder of our days.”
“My father erred,” she challenged. “I would prefer to live out my days alone than to saddle myself with the likes of you.”
“The likes of me?” he asked as he took two steps in her direction. “And what do you find so offensive with the likes of me?”
Reflexively, Elizabeth retreated a full step. She wished Mr. Darcy was not so handsome and she did not still carry a very vivid memory of his kiss or of the manner in which his lips had branded hers or of the solid heat of his body as she clung to him.
With a lift of her chin, she said, “From the very beginning, from the moment I may almost say, of my acquaintance with you, your manners impressed me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain for the feelings of others—”
“Selfish disdain for others?” he interrupted. “Did I not show your sister Mary tender care upon more than one occasion? Have I not been an attentive audience for your father? And you? Did I not offer to carry a complete stranger across a chilly creek at the cost of my favorite hat? The most you can hold against me is that I choose not to speak much unless I am among intimate acquaintances or when I share a private conversation with a highly intelligent person, be he male or female. Have I not always provided you my attention when you have a point of reference to impart?”
It was all Elizabeth could do not to stamp her foot in frustration. She despised him when he spoke with logic. “You touched my person without my permission,” she argued. “On more than one occasion.”
Mr. Darcy crossed his arms over his chest and leaned leisurely against one of the support posts. “You held no objections to our last encounter, at least none until we were found out.” He smirked.
“I object now,” she claimed.
“I fear it is too late, my dear.” He emphasized those dreaded words. “We have been observed breaking propriety.”
Elizabeth could still feel the warmth of his breath against her cheek, but she shove that tinge of desire to the side. “It was but a simple kiss,” she contested.
Mr. Darcy straightened. She noted the shift in his demeanor. It would do her well to remember that he was a proud man—a man accustomed to having his way. “The kiss we shared was everything but simple.” He began slowly stalking her. Intent marked his features.
Elizabeth’s nerves hitched higher. Suddenly, she realized why he had previously seemed so relaxed: She had no means of escape. Whatever had possessed her to permit him to corner her so? She should have stormed past him when Mr. Darcy first entered the stable. More importantly, whatever had possessed her to kiss him? Over the years, she had engaged in several flirtations, but never once had she considered an indiscretion, so why was it that she had acted so boldly with the one man who engendered her disapprobation? And what had possessed him to kiss her? Did he often kiss unsuspecting women? The idea of Mr. Darcy embracing another brought a frown to her forehead. Whether she wished his kiss or not, Elizabeth wanted the one they has shared to be a break from his normal interaction with eligible young ladies.
Instinctively, she back-stepped. “Grand or simple,” she declared as her gaze veered upward. Wrapping the length of her riding habit about her arm and catching the nearby ladder, she took the first step. “It was only a kiss. There is no reason for us to marry.” She climbed another rung, while Mr. Darcy moved ever closer.
He paused to look her up and down, and Elizabeth knew a flush of color pinked her cheeks, for surely from her position on the ladder, her ankles were exposed to the gentleman’s view. The heat of their embrace last evening was not part and partial of her imagination. “I cannot permit you to ruin your future,” he declared in tones that should have brooked no argument.
But Elizabeth was never one to avoid an obstacle in her way. “It is my future. My choice.” She continued to climb to the hay loft, while Mr. Darcy reached for the first rung of the ladder to follow her.
“Yet, you do not hold the advantage of making the choice for your sisters’ futures. Your disgrace will affect their chances of finding husbands.”
Looking down upon Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth kicked at the loose straw sending it peppering down upon him. He blinked hard and spat against the dusty deluge. “The matter is not of your concern, sir. I shall explain it all to my sisters.”
“Miss Bingley already objects to her brother’s attentions to Miss Bennet. Your family’s connection to me would soften the lady’s disparaging words. Miss Bingley would cherish a continuance of the privilege of being a guest at Pemberley,” he argued, as his slow methodical climb began.
“If I were Mistress of Pemberley, Miss Bingley would only be invited if I chose to do so, and I would never extend my good graces to the lady,” Elizabeth declared before backing away from the opening.
“Bold words, my dear,” he reasoned, “but if Bingley chooses your sister, the future Mrs. Bingley will beg you, for family’s sake, to include Miss Bingley in your plans for the entertainments at Pemberley, and you will no doubt relent, for you love your elder sister. You love all your sisters. And you are willing to suffer the worst you can imagine if doing so would keep them safe from scorn. Even if the worst you could image comes in the form of a gentleman from Derbyshire.” He climbed through the opening to stand before her.
Tears misted Elizabeth’s eyes. She was trapped—both in the hayloft and in a situation she did not desire; even so, she would not surrender so easily. “You know nothing of my nature, sir.” She grabbed a handful of straw and threw it at his face, but only a flurry of dust motes reached him.
“Obviously, I know more of your nature than you do of mine,” he stated in hard tones as he took a long stride to reach her.
Surprised by his boldness, Elizabeth stepped back quickly to avoid him, but her boot caught on some farm wire around the bale of hay, and she pitched backward. She knew Mr. Darcy reached for her, and in desperation, she grabbed his wrist, but it was too late. She tumbled backward, with only a pile of hay to soften her fall, but her shame was not complete, for the gentleman had followed her down. Thankfully, he had the foresight to turn his body so as not to land hard upon her.
Elizabeth attempted to sit up, but before she could reclaim her wits about her, Mr. Darcy had rolled over upon her, pining her in place. “You will release me,” she ordered.
She caught a glimpse of what she thought was annoyance before his expression closed over. “I will release you when things between us are settled.”
“Nothing you can say or do will change my mind.” She wriggled from side to side, but from the waist down, he was firmly planted upon her person.
“Like it or not, you are mine, Elizabeth Bennet,” he growled when they were nearly nose-to-nose. “Your father sent me to find you, and soon someone or more than one person will discover us here together—experiencing a romp in the hay. Although we might have been able to keep last evening’s indiscretion a secret if not for Miss Bingley, this situation will be more problematic. I will simply rest all my weight upon you, and you will not be able to escape. We will wait for our witnesses to our taking liberties with each other.”
Again, she fought him, only to have Mr. Darcy make good upon his threat. His weight pressed her further into the prickly hay. “I will never be yours,” she hissed.
He shook his head slowly in the negative as if he thought her protests were of little consequence before presenting her a cool smile. “Would you not prefer to spend our time in more pleasurable pursuits?” He lowered his head to caress her jaw line with his lips.
“I have no desire for another kiss from you!” She turned her head to the side to avoid his kissing her again, but she could not control the hitch in her breathing as a result of his warmth invading her body.
“I do not need to kiss you to mark you as mine,” he murmured against the side of her neck as his lips skimmed down the column of it.
Even through her objections, Elizabeth felt the return of the stirrings she had experienced last evening. Yet, she was not to know what would come next.
“Lizzy!” She recognized Charlotte’s voice from below. “Are you in here?”
“Please,” Elizabeth pleaded in a whisper.
“I cannot,” he said against her lips. “Your father means for us to marry.”
She stared at him in frustration. Mr. Darcy expected her to surrender, but the word was not in her vocabulary. She dug down deep to claim the presence of mind to once again to defy him. “You will regret this moment, sir. Mark my words.” With that she shoved hard against his chest, and he easily rolled away from her. Standing quickly, she shook the hay from her clothing and moved to the opening. “Charlotte! she said with a well-placed smile, as she peered down upon her friend. “You are to congratulate me. Mr. Darcy has offered me his hand in marriage, and I have accepted.”
Introducing Pride and Prejudice and a Shakespearean Scholar
Unless one knows the value of loyalty, he cannot appreciate the cost of betrayal.
What if Darcy and Elizabeth met weeks before the Meryton assembly? What if there is no barely “tolerable” remark to have Elizabeth rejecting Mr. Darcy’s affections, but rather a dip in a cold creek that sets her against him? What if Mr. Bennet is a renown Shakespearean scholar who encourages Darcy to act the role of Petruchio from Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” to bring Elizabeth’s Katherina persona to the line.
ELIZABETH BENNET’s pride has her learning a difficult lesson: Loyalty is hard to find, and trust is easy to lose. Even after they share a passionate kiss outside the Meryton assembly hall and are forced to marry, Elizabeth cannot forget the indignity she experienced at the hands of Fitzwilliam Darcy. Although she despises his high-handedness, Elizabeth appreciates the protection he provides her in their marriage. But can she set her prejudice aside long enough to know a great love?
FITZWILLIAM DARCY places only two demands on his new wife: her loyalty and her trust, but when she invites his worst enemy to Darcy House, he has no choice but to turn her out. Trusting her had been his decision, but proving his choice the right one before she destroys two hearts meant to be together must be hers, and Darcy is not certain Elizabeth is up to the task.
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