I don’t read a lot of books with stereotypical villains who laugh demonically and have evil plans to take over the world. But I know one villain I love to hate: Lady Catherine de Bourgh in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
Like many villains, Lady Catherine sees herself as the heroine of her story. She does what she thinks is right, for herself and her family. But her arrogance and prejudice make her a great opponent for our real heroine, Elizabeth Bennet. Lady Catherine has arranged for her daughter to marry Mr. Darcy. She also finds Elizabeth’s family too far below Mr. Darcy’s status and Elizabeth herself to be too outspoken. That sets up a great conflict.
Lady Catherine and Elizabeth are both strong, intelligent, women. Part of the fun of reading this novel is watching them trade verbal barbs. Here’s an example:
Lady Catherine comes to Elizabeth’s home to dissuade her from marrying Mr. Darcy. At one point she says, “…I have not been used to submit to any person’s whims. I have not been in the habit of brooking disappointment.”
Elizabeth replies, “Thatwill make your ladyship’s situation more pitiable; but it will have no effect on me.”
In the end, Lady Catherine’s efforts backfire. Not only does Elizabeth refuse her demand to promise not to say yes to Mr. Darcy, but her telling him about it makes his resolve stronger to marry her. He says to Elizabeth, “Lady Catherine’s unjustifiable endeavours to separate us, were the means of removing all my doubts.” True love prevails—yay!!!
My favorite movie portrayal of Lady Catherine de Bourgh is Dame Judi Dench in the 2005 version (with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfayden). Which movie version of Pride and Prejudice do you like best?