When it comes to historical romance novels, Jane Austen is the first one that comes to your mind. But apart from her, 19th century England witnessed other authors whose romance novels became classics of English literature. One of them was Charlotte Bronte. Although the publishers rejected her first novel, The Professor, her second novel Jane Eyre quickly became popular. Charlotte Bronte gained most of her fame due to this novel. However, her career was short-lived. Following her first publication of Jane Eyre in 1847, Charlotte Bronte wrote and published only four other novels before she passed away in 1855. Over the years, both the silver screen and small screen witnessed some great Jane Eyre Adaptations.
Movies and TV based on Charlotte Bronte’s novel Jane Eyre have been popular ever since the first adaptation of the novel in a 1910 American silent movie. The short classic drama marked the beginning of numerous Jane Eyre adaptations that are popular even to this day. Charlotte Bronte’s novel Jane Eyre adaptations include a lot of old classics. There are more than sixteen English language film versions of Jane Eyre, including eight silent movies. However, if we consider TV series and adaptations more loosely based on the story, the number is way more than that. Here, we will discuss some of the best Jane Eyre adaptations that perfectly portrayed the Victorian era of the novel.
The plot of Jane Eyre Novel:
The novel is the first-person narration of Jane Eyre’s life from her perspective. The story is set during the reign of George III, 1760 to 1820. The story is divided into five major segments; Jane’s childhood at Gateshead Hall, her education at Lowood School; her time as a governess at Thornfield Hall; her time in the Moor House, and lastly, her reunion and marriage with Edward.
The first segment involves her tragic childhood, where an orphaned young Jane Eyre was living with her abusive and wealthy aunts and cousins, the Reed family. The second segment shows her life at Lowood school, where she makes new friends, but also suffered oppression from others. The third segment includes the part where she worked as a governess at Thornfield Hall and fell in love with her employer Edward Fairfax Rochester. Edward has a mysterious and dark past of his own, which was revealed later in the novel.
The fourth segment shows her life at the Moor house, where her cousin St. John Rivers, who is a clergyman, proposes to her. During the fourth segment, Jane finds her relatives and is happy to find caring family members for the first time. The fifth and final segment includes the part where Jane accepts St. John’s proposal and agrees to go to India with him after their marriage. While Jane was hesitating to go along with her marriage, she meets Mr. Rochester after a long time. She learns that his wife set the house on fire and committed suicide by jumping off the roof. Edward lost one hand and his eyesight. However, the two reunites and eventually get married. Edward regains sight in one eye after two years of his marriage with Jane.
1. Jane Eyre (1997)
This is a British television movie that first aired on 9 March 1997 on the ITV channel in the United Kingdom. On 19 October 1997, the movie aired in the United States on A&E-TV for the first time. This adaptation of Jane Eyre is written by Richard Hawley, Kay Mellor, and Peter Wright. Robert Young directed the movie with Samantha Morton starring as Jane Eyre. The movie has 7.0 ratings on IMDb and is well appreciated by other critics as well.
One of the most notable plots in the story was the omission of the middle scenes with Mrs. Reed, the Rivers’ relationship with Jane, and her paternal uncle’s inheritance from his estate in Maderia. Laura Anne Harling played the role of young Jane, which was probably the most remarkable part of the movie. Her portrayal of young Jane is said to be one of the best out of all adaptations. Despite the many shortcomings, such as average cinematography, and fewer childhood scenes, the movie overall was a good adaptation of the novel.
Apart from Samantha Morton and Laura Anne Harling, below are the rest of the characters of the novel and their cast:
- Edward Fairfax Rochester – Ciaran Hinds
- St. John Rivers – Rupert Penry Jones
- Mrs. Alice Fairfax – Gemma Jones
- Adele – Timia Berthome
- Mr. Brocklehurst – Michael Denigris
- Blanche Ingram – Abigail Cruttenden
- John Reed – Ben Sowden
- Mrs. Reed – Deborah Findlay
- Mrs. Butterworth – Kay Mellor
2. Jane Eyre (1983)
This award-winning adaptation of Jane Eyre is an eleven-episode mini-series that aired from 9 October 1983 to 18 December 1983. BBC channel produced and aired the series. Famous British author and screenwriter Alexander Baron wrote the script for the series, and Julian Charles Becket Amyes directed it. Since it’s a TV series with a total of four hours of screen time, this adaptation covered most of the parts from the novel. The movie has a rating of 8.0 on IMDb.
The resemblance from the novel was much better than other adaptations. However, the most lacking factor was the portrayal of young Jane. She looked much older than what was in the story, and her appearance didn’t match her character. Nonetheless, this was balanced out by an amazing portrayal of Adele. She may very well be the best Adele among all adaptations.
Below are the characters of the novel and their cast:
- Jane Eyre – Zelah Clarke
- Edward Fairfax Rochester – Timothy Dalton
- Mrs. Fairfax – Jean Harvey
- Young Jane – Sian Pattenden
- Adele – Blanche Youinou
- Mrs. Reed – Judy Cornwell
- Richard Mason – Damien Thomas
- Blanche Ingram – Mary Tamm
- Mr. Brocklehurst – Rober James
- Mary Rivers – Morag Hood
- John Reed – Alan Cox
3. Jane Eyre (2011)
This is a movie adaptation of the novel and won many awards. The costumes designed by Michael O’Connor was even nominated for the Oscars. The movie was released in the theatres of the United States on 22 April 2011. This Jane Eyre adaptation has a rating of 7.3 on IMDb.Moira Buffini wrote the script for the movie, and Cary Joji Fukunaga directed the movie. The movie had a much higher budget than other adaptations, and the portrayal of the Victorian era was also remarkable.
Adriano Goldman was the cinematographer for this adaptation, and it goes without saying that this version of Jane Eyre had the best cinematography. Adriano Goldman has received many awards for his cinematography, including the “Excellence in Cinematography: Dramatic” in the 2009 Sundance Film Festival for Cary Joji Fukunaga’s movie Sin Nombre. The movie cut a lot of story from the novel, including the plot twist where Jane Eyre and St. John Rivers are actually related.
Below are the characters of the novel and their actors:
- Jane Eyre – Mia Wasikowska
- Edward Fairfax Rochester – Michael Fassbender
- St. John Rivers – Jamie Bell
- Mrs. Fairfax – Judi Dench
- Mrs. Reed – Sally Hawkins
- Diana Rivers – Holliday Grainger
- Mary Rivers – Tamzin Merchant
- Young Jane – Amelia Clarkson
- Adele – Romy Settbon
- Richard Mason – Harry Lloyd
- John Reed – Craig Roberts
4. Jane Eyre (2006)
This is another mini TV series adaptation of the novel. This critically acclaimed series won three Primetime Emmy awards for Art Direction, Costumes, and Hairstyling. Also, the series won a BAFTA Awards for Make-Up and Hair Design and was even nominated for the Golden Globes in the Best Actress category. BBC One aired all four episodes of this miniseries from 24 September 2006 to 15 October 2006. Sandy Welch wrote the script for the series, and Susanna White was the director.
The series has a rating of 8.3 on IMDb. However, rather than the story, the series was more appreciated for its Victorian setting, costumes, and acting. But, it stands for reason, considering how the many differences from the original novel wouldn’t sit well with the novel fans. The series was more like a modern version of Jane Eyre adaptations.
The series also included some additional scenes to portray the passionate natures of Jane and Edward, which was implied in the novel but not spelled out. Another notable plot change was where Edward hired a Gypsy rather than disguising himself as one. There was also one scene where Edward uses an ouija board, a scene that wasn’t in the novel. Despite the many changes, the series was overall a good one, and it is definitely worth the watch.
Below are the characters of Jane Eyre and the actors who played their roles in the series:
- Jane Eyre – Ruth Wilson
- Edward Fairfax Rochester – Toby Stephens
- Mrs. Fairfax – Lorraine Ashbourne
- Young Jane – Georgie Henley
- Adele – Cosima Littlewood
- Mrs. Reed – Tara Fitzgerald
- John Eshton – Aiden McArdle
- St. John Rivers – Andrew Buchan
- Mary Rivers – Emma Lowndes
- Richard Mason – Daniel Pirrie
- Blanche Ingram – Christina Cole
- Diana Rivers – Annabel Scholey