The morning after the Netherfield Ball, Lizzie wakes with a banging headache and foggy recollections of the night before…
What happened last night? (Knock knock) oh my head….Netherfield…right, Netherfield, dresses n stuff, terrible wine, ooooohhhh God the wine, why was I drinking so much wine…( knock, knock) was somebody rapping?? And mum, (knock, knock) mum was, being an arse, and Lydia was being an arse, and Kitty was being an arse, and Wickham was...not there, right, so he’s an arse...and Mary was...singing! (Knock, knock) Dear god the singing...and someone else...who am I forgetting?? (Knock, knock!) Someone was bothering me, (knock) someone kept following me around, (knock) someone kept hitting me on the head, (knock) Jeezy creezy what is that awful sound?? (KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK)
“WHO IS IT don't come in, Ithinkmyheadisexploding…”
“Just your mother dear, breakfast is ready and a Mr. Someone is waiting to speak to you! Hehe!”
Disregarding the fact that her mother just worked “hehe” into everyday conversation, Lizzie manages to put clothing on in (mostly) the right direction and comes downstairs…
...and she remembers who was bothering her last night.
“Good morning dear! Mr. Collins was just saying how he wanted a word with you, I'll just pop out back, Lydia? Kitty? Let's leave Mr. Collins and Lizzie to themselves, hehe!”
Note To Self: The imminent threat of a dreaded proposal is certainly the best hangover cure I’ve seen to date. Sober ya right up.
Lizzie is left to fend off Mr. Collins by herself.
In the book, Collins’ proposal to Lizzie goes on, uninterrupted, for two, full, size 10 font, single-spaced pages, and they are well worth a read if you are studying to deliver the Worst.Proposal.Ever. Luckily we are paraphrasing, and Lizzie is only half listening, so his speech is a little more like this:
“My dear Miss Elizabeth blah blah blah your modesty blah blah blah Lady Catherine blah blah blah you were the first person I wanted to marry as soon as I entered your house (NOT TRUE) blah blah blah My reasons for marrying (oh lord) blah blah blah Lady Catherine blah blah blah And now nothing remains but for me to assure you of the VIOLENCE of my affection (don’t laugh don’t laugh don’t laugh) blah blah blah indifferent to fortune blah blah blah when we are married.”
“Woah, hold up, I haven’t made an answer yet! Wait for it...wait for it...no. My answer is no.”
“But...no means yes, yes?”
“Nope, Mr. Collins, no, believe it or not, actually means NO.”
“A maybe then?”
Elizabeth turns and walks away.
Mrs. B sees Elizabeth exiting the room, and runs in to give congratulations to Mr. Collins on his newly acquired bride. It is a credit to Mr. Collins’ self-deception that he actually agrees with Mrs. B and says, “Thank you! Yeah, we’re totally getting married, I mean, at first she was like, ‘No’, but I mean, that’s just what modest, quiet girls like Elizabeth do, right? He, he, he.”
But Mrs. B is not fooled. She knows her daughter. She leaves Mr. Collins and calls for back-up.
“MR. BENNET!! COME MAKE YOUR DAUGHTER MARRY MR. COLLINS!”
Mr. B comes out. Lizzie comes out. She is flanked on either side by her mother and father.
Dad says: “Your mother tells me that you’ve refused an offer of marriage from Mr. Collins. Is that right?”
Lizzie says: “Yeah.”
Dad says: “Your mother insists that you marry him. Is that right, Mrs. B?”
Mom says: “Yes, or I’ll never see her again.”
And nothing I can paraphrase will top Mr. Bennet’s response:
“An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents.--Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do.”
Lizzie smiles and is free.
Chaos insues. Mrs. B is chasing down Lizzie and trying desperately to change her mind, even attempting to bring Jane into the mix. Mr. Collins can’t figure out why anyone would possibly refuse him as a husband. Lydia and Kitty are giggling like mad. And into this mess enters Charlotte.
All you need to know is that Charlotte and Collins have a pleasant little exchange whilst the Bennets are running about. This will come back later.
HISTORICAL INTERLUDE: So here’s what the big whoop is about this situation. When Mr. Bennet dies, Mr. Collins inherits Longbourne, and he can basically do whatever he wants with it. If he marries one of the Bennet girls, he has an incentive to provide for them. If he doesn’t, he can kick the girls out on the street, and they would have to live off of Mrs. Bennet’s income, which is 200 pounds/year, which by today’s standards would be about $7,000/year. Hardly a liveable income for a mother and five daughters. Thus Mrs. Bennet’s insistence at Lizzie marrying Mr. Collins.
NEXT TIME: Wickham’s Excuse, Bingley Peaces Out, and Collins Finally Gets a ‘Yes!’
Comment if you have any questions about the story, the book, or the history behind it!
Caitlin Lushington is the Co-Artistic Director of the Enso Theatre Ensemble, a teacher, director, and actress. Sometimes she works too hard, sometimes she forgets things, and she strives to put the car keys back in the same place every time. She drinks tea every morning from her TARDIS mug and "Mr. Tea" diffuser. She loves the morning and wishes she had a photographic memory, so she could remember the names of every person she meets.