There’s Something About Darcy: The curious appeal of Jane Austen’s bewitching hero Book Review

There are certain cultural shorthands that we all know, even if we are unaware of the deeper context of the specific reference. When we talk about Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, he is symbolic of a romantic ideal that many aspire to, even if that aspiration is far from reality.

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There’s Something About Darcy: The curious appeal of Jane Austen’s bewitching hero, by Gabrielle Malcolm, was published last year. In the book, Malcolm examines the origins of Austen‘s most famous leading man, how he has inspired other romantic male leads, and how he has evolved over time. Creating the connection between the characters in her time, Dr. Malcolm explains how later male characters such as Mr. Rochester, Heathcliff, and even Dracula can trace their origins to Fitzwilliam Darcy. She then looks into how Jane Austen fanfiction has taken the character in new directions and new narratives that her creator could not have even imagined.

I loved this book. The author creates a nice balance of academic authority and adoring fandom without veering too heavily in either direction. It was a fascinating deep dive into this man who has become both a romantic icon and a character type for many a romantic male lead since 1813.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.


Much Ado About Nothing Character Review: Don John

*The schedule for the Character Review posts will be changing to Friday (or Saturday at the latest from now on).

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the William Shakespeare play Much Ado About Nothing. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the movie. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations. No one sees themselves as a villain. In their minds, they are the hero. But that does not mean that others have the same opinion.

In Much Ado About Nothing, the audience is introduced to Don John, the younger and supposedly illegitimate brother of Don Pedro. When the play opens, we are told that John was the perpetrator of some act that did not go over well. Though we are not given the details, the impression is that John has been pardoned and is once more welcomed into his brother’s circle. Taciturn and sullen, he prefers the company of his friends over the rest of the group.

The appearance of reformation is just that. John still holds a grudge against Don Pedro and resents that Claudio has become a surrogate younger brother. He knows that they cannot directly go after his brother, he must use subterfuge to reach his goals. Knowing that Claudio is both in love with Hero and open to persuasion, John and his people try to convince Claudio that his brother wants Hero for himself.

When that plan goes awry, John and his friends change tactics. Knowing that Hero’s ladies maid Margaret has a thing for Borachio, one of John’s lieutenant’s. They use her to convince both Don Pedro and Claudio that Hero is unfaithful to her fiance the night before the nuptials. The wedding, as he hopes, turns into a shit show and he nearly gets away. But when the truth is revealed, Don John is caught and brought to justice.

To sum it up: A good antagonist knows his or her place in the narrative. Their job is to make trouble for the protagonist(s) and add tension to the story. Don John is as close to this description as one can get. He knows how to play the game, and undermine the other characters without them knowing it, at least at first. And, like all villains, his true character is revealed and he gets what is coming to him.

Which is why he is a memorable character.

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