Elizabeth Bennet

For other people with similar names, see Elizabeth Bennett.
Elizabeth Bennet

Elizabeth Bennet, a fictional character appearing in the novel Pride and Prejudice, depicted by C. E. Brock
Full name Mrs Elizabeth Darcy, formerly Miss Elizabeth Bennet
Gender Female
Age 20
Income £50 per annum (Interest on £1,000 from her mother's fortune by settlement upon her death.)
Primary residence Longbourn, near Meryton, Hertfordshire
Spouse Fitzwilliam Darcy
Romantic interest(s) Mr. William Collins
Lt. George Wickham
Col. Fitzwilliam
Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy
Parents Mr. and Mrs. Bennet
Sibling(s) Jane Bennet
Mary Bennet
Catherine "Kitty" Bennet
Lydia Bennet
Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy by Hugh Thomson, 1894

Elizabeth Bennet is the protagonist in the 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. She is often referred to as Eliza or Lizzy by her friends and family. Elizabeth is the second child in a family of five daughters. Though the circumstances of the time and environment push her to seek a marriage of convenience for economic security, Elizabeth wishes to marry for love.

Elizabeth is regarded as the most admirable and endearing of Austen's heroines.[1] She is considered one of the most beloved characters in British literature[2] because of her complexity. Austen herself described Lizzy as "as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print."[3]


Elizabeth is the second eldest of the five Bennet sisters of the Longbourn estate, situated near the fictional market village of Meryton in Hertfordshire, England. She is 20 years old at the beginning of the novel.[4] Elizabeth is described as an intelligent young woman, with "a lively, playful disposition, which delighted in anything ridiculous". She often presents a playful good-natured impertinence that does not offend. Early in the novel she is depicted as being personally proud of her wit and her accuracy in judging the social behaviour and intentions of others.

Her father is a landowner, but his daughters cannot inherit because the estate is entailed upon the male line (it can only be inherited by male relatives). Upon his death, Longbourn will therefore be inherited by his cousin and nearest male relation, Mr. William Collins, a clergyman for the Rosings Estate in Kent owned by Lady Catherine de Bourgh. This future provides the cause of Mrs. Bennet's eagerness to have her daughters married off to wealthy men.

Elizabeth is her father's favourite, described by him as having "something more of quickness than her sisters". In contrast, she is the least dear to her mother, especially after Elizabeth refuses a marriage proposal from Mr Collins. Her mother tends to contrast her negatively with her sisters Jane and Lydia, whom she considers superior in beauty and disposition, respectively, and does not understand her father's preference. Elizabeth is often upset and embarrassed by the impropriety and silliness of her mother and three younger sisters.

Within her neighbourhood Elizabeth is considered a beauty and a charming young woman with "fine eyes", to which Mr. Darcy is first drawn. Darcy is later attracted more particularly to her "light and pleasing" figure, the "easy playfulness" of her manners, her mind and personality, and eventually considers her "one of the handsomest women" in his acquaintance.


From the beginning, opinions have been divided on the character, Anne Isabella Milbanke gave a glowing review of the novel, while Mary Russell Mitford criticizes Elizabeth's lack of taste.[5] The modern exegetes are torn between admiration for the vitality of the character and the disappointment of seeing Elizabeth intentionally suppress her verve[6] and submit, at least outwardly, to male authority.[7] In Susan Fraiman's essay 'The Humiliation of Elizabeth Bennett', the author criticises the fact that Elizabeth must forgo her development as a woman in order to ensure the success of "ties among men [such as her father and Darcy] with agendas of their own."[8]

Susan Morgan regards Elizabeth's major flaw to be that she is "morally disengaged" - taking much of her philosophy from her father, Elizabeth observes her neighbours, never becoming morally obligated to make a stand.[9]

An unconventional character

In her letter to Cassandra dated 29 January 1813, Jane Austen wrote: "I must confess that I think her as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print, and how I shall be able to tolerate those who do not like her at least I do not know".[10] This mix of energy and intelligence, and her gaiety and resilience make Elizabeth a true Stendhal heroine according to Tony Tanner, and he adds that there are not many English heroines that we can say that of.[11]

The character of Elizabeth Bennet, marked by intelligence and independent thinking, and her romance with the proud Mr Darcy have carried over into various theatrical retellings. Helen Fielding's novel Bridget Jones's Diary, as well as the film series of the same name, is a modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, with Elizabeth as Renée Zellweger's title character. In Gurinder Chadha's Bollywood adaptation, Bride and Prejudice, Aishwarya Rai plays the Elizabeth character, Lalita Bakshi. In the 2008 television film Lost in Austen, actress Gemma Arterton plays a version of Lizzy who switches places with a modern-day young woman. Lily James starred as the zombie-slaying Elizabeth Bennet in the film version of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a popular novel by Seth Grahame-Smith.[12]

The most notable of performances has been that of Keira Knightley in, Pride and Prejudice (2005 film), directed by Joe Wright. Knightley received a Best Actress Oscar Nomination for her portrayal of the heroine.

The character has most recently been used in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a project which is partly headed by YouTube vlogger Hank Green, and depicts Elizabeth (played by Ashley Clements) as a modern-day woman in America posting video blogs about her life along with her friend 'Charlotte Lu' a character based on Charlotte Lucas.

Depictions in film and television


Year Actress Role Film Notes
1940 Greer Garson Elizabeth Bennet Pride and Prejudice
2003 Kam Heskin Elizabeth Bennet Pride & Prejudice: A Latter-Day Comedy A Modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.
2004 Aishwarya Rai Lalita Bakshi Bride and Prejudice A Bollywood adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.
2005 Keira Knightley Elizabeth Bennet Pride & Prejudice Nominated Academy Award for Best Actress
Nominated Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
Nominated Satellite Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
Nominated Empire Award for Best Actress
Nominated Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress
Nominated Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress
Nominated  London Film Critics' Circle Award for British Actress of the Year
Nominated Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Actress
Nominated Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress
2016 Lily James Elizabeth Bennet Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Based on the parody novel by Seth Grahame-Smith.


Year Actress Role Television programme Notes
1938 Curigwen Lewis Elizabeth Bennet Pride and Prejudice Television film
1949 Madge Evans Elizabeth Bennet The Philco Television Playhouse Season 1, episode 17: "Pride and Prejudice"
1952 Daphne Slater Elizabeth Bennet Pride and Prejudice TV mini-series
1957 Virna Lisi Elisabeth Bennet Orgoglio e pregiudizio An adaptation in Italian.
1958 Jane Downs Elizabeth Bennet Pride and Prejudice TV mini-series
Kay Hawtrey Elizabeth Bennet General Motors Theatre Episode: "Pride and Prejudice". Originally aired 21 December.
1961 Lies Franken Elizabeth Bennet De vier dochters Bennet An adaptation in Dutch.
1967 Celia Bannerman Elizabeth Bennet Pride and Prejudice 6-episode television series.
1980 Elizabeth Garvie Elizabeth Bennet Pride and Prejudice 5-episode television series.
1995 Jennifer Ehle Elizabeth Bennet Pride and Prejudice Six-episode television series. Won - British Academy Television Award for Best Actress
Dee Hannigan Elizabeth Bennet Wishbone Season 1, episode 25: "Furst Impressions"
1997 Julia Lloyd Elizabeth Bennet Red Dwarf Season 7, episode 6: "Beyond a Joke"
2001 Lauren Tom Elizabeth Bennet Futurama Season 3, episode 10: "The Day the Earth Stood Stupid"
2008 Gemma Arterton Elizabeth Bennet Lost in Austen A fantasy adaptation of Pride and Prejudice in which modern woman trades places with Elizabeth Bennet.
2012–2013 Ashley Clements Lizzie Bennet The Lizzie Bennet Diaries Web series. A modern adaptation in which the main character tells the story of Pride and Prejudice through video blogs.
2013 Anna Maxwell Martin Elizabeth Darcy/Mrs Darcy Death Comes to Pemberley Three-part series based on P.D. James's novel about events after Pride and Prejudice.


  1. William Dean Howells 2009, p. 48
  2. "SparkNotes: Pride and Prejudice: Analysis of Major Characters". sparknotes.com. Retrieved 19 September 2010.
  3. Wright, Andrew H. "Elizabeth Bennet." Elizabeth Bennet (introduction by Harold Bloom). Broomall: Chelsea House Publishers , 2004. 37–38 . Google Book Search. Web. 22 October 2011.
  4. Pride and Prejudice. Chapter 29.
  5. In a letter to Sir William Elford dated December 20, 1814.
  6. Morrison, Robert, ed. (2005). Jane Austen's Pride and prejudice : a sourcebook. New York, NY [u.a.]: Routledge. p. 83. ISBN 9780415268493.
  7. Lydia Martin 2007 , p. 201.
  8. Fraiman, Susan (1993). Unbecoming Women: British Women Writers and the Novel of Development. Columbia University Press. p. 73.
  9. Morgan, Susan (August 1975). "Intelligence in "Pride and Prejudice"". Modern Philology. 73 (1): 54–68. JSTOR 436104.
  10. "Jane Austen -- Letters -- Other excerpts from letters in Austen-Leigh's "Memoir"". pemberley.com.
  11. Tanner, Tony (1986). Jane Austen. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University press. p. 105. ISBN 9780674471740.
  12. Dave McNary. "'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies' Casts Lily James, Sam Riley, Bella Heathcote". Variety.


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