Can the most famous playwright of all time come up with the right words to unite Darcy and Elizabeth?
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
What do you get when Elizabeth Bennet, faithful friend and literary advisor-of-sorts to William Shakespeare, finds herself working as a blacksmith and “moonlighting” as a gentlewoman when she meets the proud and gruff William Darcy, a gentleman who has just left France to find himself an estate in England? Dear readers, you find yourself reading a mash-up between the book “Pride and Prejudice,” and the movies “Shakespeare in Love,” and “Ever After.”
As we go back nearly 200 years ago in time from where Austen’s own “Pride and Prejudice” initially takes place, we find ourselves surrounded by a cast of characters who have been reimagined in this tale of love, loss, and literature. Michelle M. has cleverly crafted a “Pride and Prejudice” mash-up that reads like a romantic tale that Shakespeare himself would’ve appreciated for its tongue-in-cheek humor, it’s inclusion of several generations of family members combined with its lessons of repentance, forgiveness, and restitution.
I love describing this story as a reimagining because here we truly have the Bennet family, along with Darcy and Bingley’s circumstances, quite reimagined within this context. The Bennet family has suffered a traumatic event in their lives, leaving Mr. and Mrs. Bennet struggling to maintain their family business. Therefore, we find them in an even more reduced situation than in Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” Since Elizabeth, their most clever and industrious daughter is willing to work as a blacksmith within the family business, the family relies on her hard work, along with Kitty and Jane’s occupations, to help keep them afloat. The afterword of this story has a good explanation about why this occupational choice has been made for Elizabeth.
Elizabeth’s close bond and long-standing friendship with the playwright, William Shakespeare, serves as a source of companionship and inspiration for both of them. Shakespeare, a newly recognized gentleman in an unhappy marriage, whose wife lives primarily in the country, spends his time writing and sharing his work with Elizabeth. Together, they are close confidantes struggling to find a happily-ever-after within their own lives.
In this reimagining, Charlotte Lucas, known here as Lady Charlotte Lucas, convinces her friends Elizabeth and Jane to dress above their stations to attend a ball with her. The ladies meet Bingley, Darcy, and Colonel Fitzwilliam and from here, the story begins to loosely take the shape of Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice. Darcy and Elizabeth banter their way through numerous misunderstandings, as Michelle M. creatively incorporates Shakespeare’s own famous lines into their dialogue. She handles this in a manner that is very accessible and entertaining for readers while also having each chapter aptly named after a different work by Shakespeare. It’s amusing to see chapters named as “Merry Wives of Windsor” and “Taming of the Shrew” put to good use to help navigate the reader through this story.
The narration of the text is mainly told from Elizabeth’s point of view, with parts also told from Darcy’s point of view. I loved when Elizabeth would stop to speak directly to the reader and offer further clarification on her perspective. I felt this added a special connection between Elizabeth and the reader. Michelle M.’s use of Early Modern English throughout the story creates a reimagining infused with Shakespeare’s spirit and style while at the same time she cleverly mixes several lines from own Austen’s story. The surprise is in where and how she uses Austen’s phrases to bring alive a story that varies greatly from Austen’s version while at the same time retaining her characters and timeless themes.
JASNA has an interesting article that compares the movie “Becoming Jane,’ and “Shakespeare in Love,’ which explores some of the biographical and fictional similarities and differences between these two great writers.
I am thrilled to offer the opportunity to one Just Jane 1813 reader to win an ebook copy of this story. Please leave a comment on this post by midnight ET on March 14. The winner will be announced on this blog on March 15, 2016.
I want to thank Michelle M. for her brilliant execution in creating a “Pride and Prejudice” reimagining that will put a smile on the faces of many Jane Austen and William Shakespeare fans alike.
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