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Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke in Fan Favorite Jane Eyre

Updated on October 3, 2017
Athlyn Green profile image

Athlyn Green enjoys good movies and discusses these with readers who may be looking to add to their home libraries.

A Tale of Forbidden Love as Compelling and Chaotic as the Rainswept Moors

A Lovable Rogue and an Innocent Governess

In the 1983 BBC version of Jane Eyre,Timothy Dalton plays the troubled Mr. Rochester. And he was born to play the role. He is commanding yet vulnerable. His very casting off of convention makes him a sympathetic character to audiences that can relate only too well to those moments in life when convention is defied to realize a heartfelt desire. Rochester is a rogue who pushes the boundaries without a moment's hesitation.

Zelah Clarke portrays the principled Jane. Her innocence, demureness and morals are the perfect contrast to Edward Fairfax Rochester's tortured and passionate persona. In spite of her resolve, Jane is like a moth drawn to a flame and she knows she risks getting burned.

Fate has seemingly brought these two people together and they are akin... but convention and morality stand in their way and at Thornfield hall, all is not as it seems.

A Living Hell or Bliss?

Rochester is young and idealistic and does his duty, something that will cost him dearly and alter the course of his life. Will he once again do "as he is supposed to," surrendering to man-made laws which shackle him and consign him to a living hell or will he defy convention, the law, and even God Almighty, to finally find happiness?

A Fateful Meeting

Jane meets Mr. Rochester
Jane meets Mr. Rochester | Source

When you came upon me in Hay Lane last night, I thought unaccountably of fairy tales, and had half a mind to demand whether you had bewitched my horse.

— Mr. Rochester

To live, for me, Jane, is to stand on a crater-crust which may crack and spew fire any day.

— Mr. Rochester

Thornfield Hall Holds Dark Secrets

Mystery & Intrigue in Jane Eyre

Thornfield Hall is forbidding and sets the tone for the story, a gothic tale filled with mystery and secrets.

Jane's quiet role of governess is side-railed with the appearance of the enigmatic Mr. Rochester, master of the manor. His dark, brooding personality transforms as the repartee between him and Jane takes on a life of its own.

Rochester's preference for Jane becomes obvious and he tries to shake her from her firm standing for morality and convention.

Rochester is determined to make Jane his own, even if he has to fly in the face of social norms and take a wildly unconventional route to accomplish his objectives.

Temptation and a Terrible Secret

Jane has much to contend with, the temptation of casting morality to the winds and a secret that may stand in the way of any chance for love.


Since happiness is irrevocably denied me, I have a right to get pleasure out of life: and I will get it, cost what it may."

— Mr. Rochester

"It was nothing but a creature of your imagination... "

Romance and Remorse

As with all good love stories, the road to happiness is littered with obstacles. In this British movie adaptation of Jane Eyre, morality, convention and societal rules are pitted against reason, compassion and mercy.

Jane Eyre Raises Important Questions

Should laws be adhered to when to do so would cause a greater degree of suffering?
Should obligation take precedence over human well-being?
Can a balance be reached between moral duty and happiness?

The Good Girl

Jane is the quintessential good girl who has a yearning for love and acceptance but who plays by the rules.

  • "Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilized by education: they grow there, firm as weeds among stones."
  • "Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs."
  • "Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion. To attack the first is not to assail the last."

The Bad Boy


Rochester is the quintessential bad boy who is not only willing to bend the rules but is prepared to break them.

  • "When fate wronged me, I had not the wisdom to remain cool:
    I turned desperate; then I degenerated."
  • "I might have been as good as you--wiser--almost as stainless. I envy you your peace of mind, your clean conscience, your unpolluted memory."
  • "Since happiness is irrevocably denied me, I have a right to get pleasure out of life, and I will get it, cost what it may."
  • "At this moment, I am paving hell with energy."
  • "I am laying down good intentions, which I believe durable as flint."
  • "Is it better to drive a fellow-creature to despair than to transgress a mere human law, no man being injured by the breach?"
  • "I suppose I should now entertain none but fatherly feelings towards you."
  • "I must have you. The world my laugh--may call me absurd, selfish--it does not signify."

Rochester is willing to move heaven and hell to make Jane his own.

Favorite Character?

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If that boisterous channel and two hundred miles of land come broad between us... I shall take to bleeding inwardly.

— Mr. Rochester

Mr. Rochester Declares His Love

Jane Eyre is Considered One of the Most Famous Works in English Literature.

The tale poignantly captures unrequited love, something that generations of people have identified with.

A Romance to End all Romances

This is my all-time favorite movie version of Jane Eyre. Timothy Dalton was born to play the tortured Mr. Rochester. If you've ever thought of English movies as stuffy and boring, this movie will blow that perception out of the water. Rochester's rule-bending, intensity, passion, and his vulnerability and need for love is an unbeatable combination that has had a legion of female fans swooning.

Jane Eyre DVDs

Plans Unravel

Casting convention aside, Rochester asks Jane to marry him and in spite of her misgivings about their different social status, Jane accepts. But the secret hidden within Thornfield hall rears its ugly head and prevents their union and now the two lovers are to be torn away from each other. Will they ever find love and happiness?

"So, you shun me... You shut yourself up and grieve alone... I'd rather you upbraided me with vehemence."

— Mr. Rochester

Forms of Christianity and Their Expression

This story speaks to greater truths. Charlotte Bronte ably shows how religion should be a tempering force for good but how compassion, mercy and reason often take a backseat to hypocrisy, cruelty, and extremism, displayed by the very people who claim to be believers and who should know better and show kinder qualities to a higher degree. Through skillful storytelling, Bronte explores the topic of how, in some situations, rigidly adhering to rules causes more harm than good. Jane Eyre ultimately makes a statement as to how the correct course may not always be the right course.

  • Helen Burns -- Meekness and turning the other cheek, seeking the ultimate existence in heaven.
  • Mr. Brocklehurst--hypocritical puritanism.
  • Jane--traditional morality tempered with compassion and forgiveness of human failings.
  • Rochester--a sinner but far more honest about human nature and the unrealistic demands religion imposes on people.
  • St. John Rivers--a detached and duty-bound form of devotion.

Filming Location for Thornfield Hall

No discussion of Jane Eyre would be complete without mentioning Thornfield Hall and the real the manor house chosen for this movie. Haddon Hall, an imposing stone structure with paneling and passageways and set amidst lush greenery, added just the right touch of mystery and intrigue. Many viewers fell in love with the building and grounds, as seen in the movie, and have sought to learn more about this fascinating place.

Haddon Hall in Peak District National Park

Click thumbnail to view full-size
CourtyardEntrance PorchLower Terraces
Courtyard | Source
Entrance Porch
Entrance Porch
Lower Terraces
Lower Terraces

A Medieval Manor House

Dating from the 12th century, Haddon Hall is considered the finest example of a medieval manor house. Although an impressive structure that was built to withstand the test of time, restoration and conservation is an ongoing process, and great care is being taken to retain the originality and authenticity of the building.

Haddon Hall receives visitors from around the world and the revenue generated helps in the keeping this historical gem from deteriorating into oblivion.

Learn more about Haddon Hall Conservation and Restoration

Haddon Hall


Haddon Hall and Movies

The Hall has been used for Jane Eyre
Pride and Prejudice
Haddon Hall and the Long Gallery were used as Prince Humperdinck's castle in The Princess Bride
The Other Boleyn Girl

Where is Haddon Hall?

Haddon Hall, Bakewell, Derbyshire:
Haddon Hall, Haddon Hall, The Estate Office, Bakewell, Derbyshire DE45 1LA, UK

get directions

Bakewell, Derbyshire

Filming Locations

  • Deene Park
  • Deene, Northhamptonshire England

Have You Seen Jane Eyre?

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A Timeless Masterpiece

Jane Eyre is a masterpiece, mirroring so many contrasts and human emotions: duty and pleasure, false and true morality, lack of love and the deepest expression of it, agony and happiness. This story is a timeless classic that speaks to the human condition and resonates with fans who have been willing to risk all for someone they loved. An enduring tale of love, loss, and redemption that has struck a chord with generation after generation.

© 2011 Athlyn Green

What did you think of this film version?

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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I agree with you. I adore this version. Timothy and Zelah are perfectly cast. I am rewatching it for the first time in years, after seeing some more recent adaptations, and struck by how well they play the parts, even though it now looks a bit dated.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Hi, I've seen almost all existing versions for Jane Eyre, starting with the very first ones of the early days of the Cinema.....the 1983 adaptation is by far the best one in every and each respect: truthfullness to the story as told by Bronte, picking the most important scenes which disclose the main characteristics and meeting/breaking points between the characters in the plot, the language, too, is in keeping with the book, neither simplified, nor modernised, rendering an authentic dialogue exchange as per the book, which is fabulous: at once more demanding and equally charming! The cast has been an act of genius choice, no one better suited for the roles of Rochester and Jane than Dalton and Clarke, whenever I happen to watch the film I'm always struck by the sensation that there must have been some magic going on between these two fantastic actors which makes their respective parts something which transdescends a mere "acting".......something that touches the heart in a way nothing else does. The same goes for Ms. Fairfax, who's also fantastic in her role, Jane's aunt is also portrayed by a most wonderful actress (who's also playing Mrs. Musgrove in the BBC 1995 adaptation of Persuasion), the same holds equally true for Saint John Rivers and his two sisters, Morag Hood is excellent too, in short, my compliments to this true MASTERPIECE which has captured every important aspect of the book in this unforgettable and unique adaptation. There's an extra special poignancy and sensitivity to it (which is not so easy to highlight once only a few scenes from the entire book need to be selected for the film), CHAPEAU to its creators and participants, to the last one!!! Brilliant, wonderful, mesmerising :) :) :)

    • Athlyn Green profile imageAUTHOR

      Athlyn Green 

      6 years ago from West Kootenays

      Hi Ali, I agree, Dalton was born to play Rochester.

    • profile image

      Ali Chandler 

      6 years ago

      I've seen about Seven versions of Jane Eyre. Up until this week when I sat through the version staring Timothy Dalton, having seen this when it was first on tv, I've said for a number of years that William Hurt made the best Edward Rochester, but now I say Timothy Dalton. William Hurt was out of this world as Rochester, but Mr Dalton now takes the crown.

    • Athlyn Green profile imageAUTHOR

      Athlyn Green 

      8 years ago from West Kootenays

      Yes, Dalton was born to be Rochester. Incredibly sexy and intense.

    • profile image

      pamela mills 

      8 years ago

      timothy dalton,the greatest rochester forever..simply beatuiful performance and a beautiful man

      zelah clarke, the best jane ever

      one of my favorite novels and when i think of these two characters..i thinkg of thses two actors...none other.



    • Athlyn Green profile imageAUTHOR

      Athlyn Green 

      9 years ago from West Kootenays

      I agree, Timothy Dalton was the best Rochester--one of his best roles ever!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I believe that the 1983adaptation of Jane Eyre is the best from every aspect.Timothy Dalton ead so perfect in hid performance.I have never seen a more convincing Rochester

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I believe that the 1983adaptation of Jane Eyre is the best from every aspect.Timothy Dalton ead so perfect in hid performance.I have never seen a more convincing Rochester

    • Athlyn Green profile imageAUTHOR

      Athlyn Green 

      9 years ago from West Kootenays


      Thanks for stopping by. Jane Eyre is a great movie, one that has stood the test of time.

    • Cogerson profile image


      9 years ago from Virginia

      Wow I can not believe it has been almost 30 years since this production, quality hub with lots of great information


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