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How to decide who is your Mr. Rochester

Updated on June 19, 2013

Charlotte Bronte

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Who is your Mr. Rochester?

First of all, I must confess. Jane Eyre is one of my favourite romantic pieces of literature. I read the story so many times I can't even remember, and I'd do it again if I had time. On the other hand, I'm not in the habit of reading romantic novels (but there are few exceptions from the rule). But I don't want to write about this beautiful piece of English literature, but about the films based on it.

There are many versions of the story. In the past 70 years, some very good actors were Mr. Rochester. Some of them will be mentioned in this article. Watching the films, I have always asked who is my favourite Mr. Rochester and why? I am sure many other women have tried to answer to this question, and probably the task was not an easy one.

So, I have decided to make it easier, reminding some of the things we must have in our mind before saying "He is the only possible Edward Rochester!"

First of all, I know nowadays it is easier to watch movies than read books, but try to read Jane Eyre. I can assure you it will be at least a very pleasant experience. In the same time, during the reading, try to imagine the scenes with the eyes of your mind. Imagine the poor, smart and (a little) shy Jane, imagine the passionate (and sometimes wild and misterious) Mr. Rochester, imagine the relationship between them and the social context from that time. It is important to see the whole story in a context.

Secondly, watch more than one or two cinematographic versions. Observe the different acting of the Rochesters. Make a parallel between their acting and your own interpretation.

Thirdly, don't forget it is very important to link Mr. Rochester to Jane. Between the the two actors there must be a kind of emotional chemistry, they must be able to create the passion and the beauty of the story. Jane is a very important element if you want to decide who is the best Rochester from your point of view. Therefore, watch her carefully.

Fourthly, don't let you influenced by your feelings for a certain actor. If you used to like X acting in another film, it is not mandatory for X to be the best Rochester. It doesn't work this way.

And finally, after your decision was made, watch again the film. You will enjoy it more.

In the next sections I will make my own Top 3 regarding The Rochesters. Of course No. 1 is my Mr. Rochester, but during the process of reading the book and watching as many films as possible I have discovered that I simply cannot forget about some of the others Mr. Rochester.


Bronte Sisters

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A new Jane Eyre adaptation - UK

A new Jane Eyre adaptation produced by Hull Truck began an UK tour on January 24, in Leeds.

Adapted by Laura Turner

Directed by Nick Lane

"I am not bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will"

I go straight to No. 1.

Jane Eyre (2013) - Promo

No. 1: Timothy Dalton – Zelah Clarke (1983)

Definitely, my No. 1 Mr. Rochester is Timothy Dalton. Dalton played Mr. Edward Fairfax Rochester in the BBC television series adaptation from 1983, Zelah Clarke being Jane. I know, there are few...faults of this production (the most important being the outdoors scenes which seem strange for us today). More than that, the age difference between Zelah and Timothy is about 10, not 20 (she was born in 1954, he was born in 1944, or 1946), and this small difference is so visible. Besides, Zelah wasn't too convincing in some scenes, but, on the other hand, I must admit the fact that she was very much Jane Eyre because of her shyness and her attitude towards Dalton. There are some scenes in which she was hardly even noticed because of him (like her departure after the wedding, or the first conversations between them). I will come back later to Zelah. Now let me tell you why Mr. Dalton is the real Mr. Rochester (of course, in my opinion).

Timothy Dalton is not only dramatic/angry/upset/terrified in some scenes. Dalton understood very well the way Charlotte Brőnte had built this relationship between the two characters, and he carried off this part of his role in a wonderful way. He is Mr. Rochester I was seeing in my mind first time I read the book, when I was a child. Dalton is also funny, with an open heart, really seeing in Jane an equal, not only a woman/a governess. He also has a sense of humor, Jane was able to share it, and probably this is the best part in their love. Remember that expression “You little niggard” in a very nice scene (you can watch it below)!

There is something I like too about his acting: the way he simulates the master-governess relationship. Even if Jane feels so much a governess (having thoughts and feelings for her master), he, the master of the house, is more than willing to make this social difference disappear. In one scene you can see him smiling, asking her how much money does she have in the world, in the next scene you find him frustrated when Jane teaches him how to say goodbye (in a very professional way).

So yes, these are few reasons why Timothy Dalton is the best Mr. Rochester ever, even if the mini series was made in 1983. His acting is something I can't forget, no matter how many other Jane Eyre films I would watch in my life.

Jane Eyre (1983) - Farewell, Mr Rochester

In case you wonder, Zelah Clarke is doing fine

After being Edward Rochester, Timothy Dalton became James Bond (the first Bond film was in 1987). But Zelah disappeared, at least from the movie world. She married a BBC producer, Francis Ash, and has a daughter. She thinks that for her Jane Eyre was like a “poisoned chalice”, because everybody remembers Mr. Rochester, no one remembers Jane (I know, it's unfair, but blame the writer). Accepting the role of Jane, Zelah thought it would be like a springboard, but in reality it forced her to retire (it's like a paradox, the film had some great reviews).

Before being Jane Eyre Zelah's first TV role was in the first episode of Poldark. She also played in Godspell, with Jeremy Irons. But she was happy when she got the part of Jane. By the way, Tim Dalton was not a superstar then, and she had some relevant TV experience. But she found Tim just lovely (she meant very sexy and great fun). She remembers he wasn't the type to lose his temper, but he got close to it during their marriage, when the actor who had to put an end to the ceremony rushed saying his line. After the seventh take, Dalton started squeezing her hand harder and harder. In the end everything ended well.

Jane Eyre (1983): A conversation

No. 2: Ciarán Hinds – Samantha Morton (1997)

When I first saw this version I asked myself why on Earth it's so fascinating to me. The Irish Ciarán Hinds was not completely unknown (I had seen him in Rome), but Sam Morton was. Anyway, I think the answer is very simple. In my vision, Mr. Rochester is a very passionate and impulsive man. Timothy Dalton and Ciarán Hinds (and Toby Stephens) have in common this trait, sometimes they could be wild in their love. But Ciarán Hinds is the second of my top because there are some beautiful scenes because of him. More than that, Sam Morton is very young and fresh, they have made a beautiful couple on the screen. I really enjoyed their version.

Jane Eyre (1997): Jane returning to Thornfield

A pencil drawing of Mr. Rochester

Maybe the face and the hair are different in our minds, but his eyes are always the same.
Maybe the face and the hair are different in our minds, but his eyes are always the same. | Source

No. 3: Toby Stephens - Ruth Wilson (2006)

There are voices saying that Ruth Wilson would have been an extraordinary Jane Eyre for Timothy Dalton. I don't think so. Simply because she did a great job playing with Toby Stephens. And Toby was a huge pleasant surprise when I watch the film. I liked them. A lot. His Mr. Rochester is somehow different, more humorous, having more fun, with a permanent rictus on his face, remember? In an interview he was aware of the fact that his Rochester will not satisfy all of the book's fans.

"Every woman has their own idea of Mr. Rochester. I'd had this image in my head of him being this rather remote, enigmatic, taciturn figure. And I read the book again and, actually, he never shuts up. He just grinds on and on and on, and he's actually quite theatrical"

PS-By the way, HIS Mr. Rochester smiles a lot!!!! Watch the second video below.

Jane Eyre (2006) - On the set

Toby smiles beautifully!

A good quote that describe Edward Rochester

"And was Mr. Rochester now ugly in my eyes? No, reader: gratitude and many associates, all pleasurable and genial, made his face the object I best liked to see; his presence in a room was more cheering than the brightest fire" (Chapter 15)

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