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Mr Bennet's Bride

    by Emma Wood

"In its premiere production at Newcastle Theatre Company in 2014, 'Mr Bennet's Bride' sold 92% of the available seats across a 10 night run. The average that year was 65% (similar to other years). We did not do any special advertising - the Austen factor seemed to be the magic, as well as word of mouth after it opened." 

Play Script: 'Mr Bennett's Bride' by Emma Wood - the prequel to 'Pride And Prejudice''Mr Bennet’s Bride' takes a closer look at two greatly loved characters from Jane Austen’s 'Pride and Prejudice': Mr and Mrs Bennet, examining a time earlier in their lives, twenty five years before the novel is set (play setting: 1780s). It presents an account of how this ill matched couple met, and why they decided to marry – a decision at least one of them would repent for many long years afterwards!

Mr James Bennet is the only son of Robert Bennet, owner of the attractive estate Longbourn. James is in his late twenties, and has thus far resisted all pressure to marry a suitable girl, largely because he resents his father’s attitude towards him. James and his father have never been easy with each other because James’ mother died giving birth to him, a grief from which Robert has never recovered. His father Robert does not seek happiness for James, but rather wishes to expedite a match which will ensure some male heirs, and keep his dreadful cousin Benedict Collins out of the picture. Collins has recently fathered a baby son (Mr Collins of the novel), who will inherit if James does not provide an heir.

Robert, acting on the advice of his sister Mary, gives James a six month limit to become engaged to a suitable young woman. To demonstrate his determination, he has his lawyer draw up a contract to hold James to the deal, or throw him out of the house. The family lawyer, George Gardiner, sees an opportunity to throw his attractive, but extremely foolish and vulgar, youngest daughter in the way of the young landowner. When he presents his daughter Emily, James is immediately struck by her beauty, and also by the fact that she is not on his father’s list of suitable choices – making her more attractive in James’ eyes. He sets about wooing her in secret. He is initially taken in by her unmannered ways, seeing them as a signs of a spirited nature.

Benedict Collins comes to stay and ensure the way is still clear for his new son to eventually inherit. James chooses a provocative moment to drop the bombshell that he is engaged to Emily Gardiner, frustrating both Benedict’s desire for his son’s succession and Robert’s desire for a marriage into a suitable family. Robert is very angry with both James and George Gardiner for his deception. Benedict offers to advise James against marrying Emily Gardiner. Robert decides he would rather James marry anyone at all than have his estate passed to a Collins, so he throws Benedict out of the house and agrees to the marriage of Emily and James.

At a final meeting of the families, it becomes apparent that Emily is an entirely unsuitable match for James and that he has acted rashly. The play finishes on his realisation that he has bound himself for life to the wrong woman.


Principals (4m, 3f)

  • Robert Bennet - 55-60, the master of Longbourne has never recovered from being widowed early in life
  • James Bennet - 28, mischievous and highly intelligent, adept at play acting to avoid responsibilities
  • Mary Ellingworth - decent, caring, considerate; burdened by widowhood early in life, helped raise James
  • Benedict Collins - abrasive, over-familiar, self-important, greedy, he carries a strong resentment for Robert
  • George Gardiner - 45-50, attorney, highly intelligent, knows how to operate socially, ambitious
  • Sarah Gardiner - 40-45, attractive, likeable but superficial, spoils her daughter, easily excited
  • Emily Gardiner - 17, striking, has an irrepressible spirit, lacks modesty, flirtatious, superficial in her judgments

Support (3f or 1f)

  • Mrs Graves - 50-70, the housekeeper; clever, good-humoured, her service has earned her familiarity and respect
  • (Optional) Mrs Bowman - 40's, pleasant natured, excitable in company, eager to make a good match for her daughter
  • (Optional) Clara Bowman - 20, serious, sensitive, not particularly pretty, has a great deal of intelligence and dignity

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