For over 200 years, Mr. Darcy has been a romantic fantasy for women all over the world. Jane Austen's classic novel Pride And Prejudice was first published in 1813. Later that year, the book was translated into French followed quickly by translations in German, Danish and Swedish. Since then, Pride And Prejudice can be found in dozens of languages in countries all over the globe. So, what gives Pride And Prejudice its universal appeal and, more specifically, what makes Mr. Darcy so damned irresistible?
Pride and Prejudice is arguably the book that gave rise to all romance novels and all romantic heroes are arguably based on Mr. Darcy.
- Author, Cassandra Clare
Upon first meeting Mr. Darcy, he is cold, distant and a little bit rude. Darcy is judgmental, seemingly elitist and swift to form opinions of others that may not be entirely accurate. And as a friend, he tends to think he knows best and doesn't hesitate to impose his will for, what he believes, is in his friend's best interest. But through the course of the novel, we begin to see that all of these harsh traits are a carefully constructed suit of armor resulting from betrayal and the pressure of strict expectations from society. We witness the flaws as they gradually begin to appear in the armor until finally, we realize that he is growing; he's evolving into a man deserving of Elizabeth Bennet's love and becoming someone she can count on when she is in need.
We've seen Pride And Prejudice adapted many different times and in many different ways over the years. And with each new adaptation, we see a new embodiment of Mr. Darcy. In 1940, Sir Laurence Olivier played the role in one of the earliest film adaptations. But the most popular among fans today, has to be Colin Firth's portrayal in the 1995 BBC/A&E television mini-series. Women fell in love with Firth's performance so much that it has found its way into other films. In Austenland, a film based on the novel about a woman so obsessed with Mr. Darcy that she has failed to find love in her own life, Keri Russell's character has a cardboard cutout figure of Firth dressed as Mr. Darcy in her apartment.
If you were a woman, all I'd have to say is 'Colin Firth in a wet shirt' and you'd say 'Ah.'
- Shannon Hale,
Most notably, Firth reprised the role of Darcy in the Bridget Jones's Diary films. Helen Fielding, author of the Bridget Jones novels, has admitted the story is based on Pride And Prejudice and that her adaptation of Darcy was heavily influenced by Firth's performance in the mini-series. Luckily for fans, Colin seems to have embraced his cross to bear as the favored Darcy and will return to theaters for another installment of Bridget Jones in September.
In 2005, we saw a contemporary take with a Bollywood twist in Bride & Prejudice and experienced the story through the lens of an Indian version of the Bennet family. This time, Mr. Darcy was an American hotel magnate played by Martin Henderson. With colorful costumes and catchy musical numbers, we explored cultural divide and class snobbery across three different continents. And Mr. Darcy remained aloof, judgmental, awkward, clumsy in his proclamations of love and utterly desirable.
Also in 2005 was another screen adaptation directed by Joe Wright and starring Kiera Knightley in the role of Elizabeth Bennet and Matthew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy.
I think every girl is looking for her Mr. Darcy.
- Actress, Keira Knightley
In 2012, Pride And Prejudice even came to YouTube in the form of the acclaimed web series, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, starring Ashley Clements as Lizzie Bennet and Daniel Vincent Gordh as Darcy. The web series was filmed as a single-camera, confessional-style diary told almost exclusively from Lizzie's point of view over the course of 100 episodes The unique perspective gave a more intimate look at the inner workings of the story and romance between Bennet and Darcy.
Darcy has a lot of appealing characteristics - he's rich, handsome, witty, and he's ardently in love with our heroine - but his ultimate appeal is that he changes and grows because of how he is challenged by Elizabeth. Lizzy and Darcy learn from and are bettered by each other, making them the ultimate match.
- Actress, Ashley Clements
This week, we'll see yet another adaptation with the release of Pride And Prejudice And Zombies. All the classic characters are back with a few changes and a lot more zombies. Still at the core of the story is Elizabeth Bennet, Mr. Darcy and their love story. This time, Lizzie and Darcy are warriors in the battle against the undead with many of the same expectations and restrictions of the Regency period. Sam Riley takes on the iconic role of Darcy in PPZ and he recently told Collider about this version saying, "Well, essentially he’s Mr. Darcy and exactly the same issues and pride and repression as the Jane Austen novel, but he is also a zombie-killing expert. He is particularly resolute in his hatred of them and his wanting to have them all wiped out because his father was infected and he was forced to kill him so he’s not very popular, but he’s rich." In this incarnation, Darcy's arrogance stems more from his abilities as a warrior than from class.
Because Pride And Prejudice is in the public domain (the book has no copyright), the story and characters are fair game for any author or adaptation. There's even a Marvel Comics version of P&P. A simple Amazon search of "Mr. Darcy" under the books category turns up over 4,000 results. With titles like Mr. Darcy's Diary, Mr. Darcy Takes A Wife and Unleashing Mr. Darcy from primarily female authors, it's clear that Darcy has taken a firm hold in the hearts and minds of women everywhere.
Who hasn't got a thing for Mr. Darcy?!
- Author, J.K. Rowling
Darcy is the romantic literary hero that can be seen reflected in nearly every romance novel, television show and film. He's the quintessential misunderstood, snobby, brooding character that, in the end, has a capacity for love and compassion that makes every other man pale in comparison. And as women, we like the idea of someone who challenges us as much as we challenge them; someone who will force us to grow and see the world in a different light. Because as much as Darcy changes through the course of Pride And Prejudice, so does Elizabeth.
For more than 200 years women have loved Mr. Darcy and with any luck, they will love him for 200 more.