Austen’s Sense and Sensibility –
From Text to Screen
Roberta Grandi
Università della Valle d’Aosta
• Adaptations of
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• Jane Austen!
• Novel, Jane
Austen, 1811
• Film, Ang Lee,
1996, Columbia
Screenplay by
Emma Thompson
Text and
From text to screenplay
Text and
(places and
Plot (Episodes)
Direct Speech
Indirect speech
and interior
From text to screenplay
Text and
(places and
Setting and
Plot (Episodes)
Plot (Sequences)
Direct Speech
Indirect speech
and interior
Dialogue (or
voice over)
From text to screenplay
From Description to Setting
THE first part of their journey was performed in too melancholy a disposition to be otherwise than
tedious and unpleasant. But as they drew towards the end of it, their interest in the appearance of a
country which they were to inhabit overcame their dejection, and a view of Barton Valley, as they entered
it, gave them cheerfulness. It was a pleasant, fertile spot, well wooded, and rich in pasture. After winding
along it for more than a mile, they reached their own house. A small green court was the whole of its
demesne in front; and a neat wicket-gate admitted them into it.
As a house, Barton Cottage, though small, was comfortable and compact; but as a cottage it was defective,
for the building was regular, the roof was tiled, the window shutters were not painted green, nor were the
walls covered with honeysuckles. A narrow passage led directly through the house into the garden
behind. On each side of the entrance was a sitting room, about sixteen feet square; and beyond them
were the offices and the stairs. Four bed-rooms and two garrets formed the rest of the house. It had not
been built many years, and was in good repair. In comparison of Norland, it was poor and small indeed!but the tears which recollection called forth as they entered the house were soon dried away. They were
cheered by the joy of the servants on their arrival, and each for the sake of the others resolved to appear
happy. It was very early in September; the season was fine; and from first seeing the place under the
advantage of good weather, they received an impression in its favor which was of material service in
recommending it to their lasting approbation.
The situation of the house was good. High hills rose immediately behind, and at no great distance on
each side; some of which were open downs, the others cultivated and woody. The village of Barton was
chiefly on one of these hills, and formed a pleasant view from the cottage windows. The prospect in front
was more extensive; it commanded the whole of the valley, and reached into the country beyond. The
hills which surrounded the cottage terminated the valley in that direction; under another name,
and in another course, it branched out again between two of the steepest of them.
From Description to Setting
From Description to Cast
Characters eliminated or modified
Eliminated: Anne Steele, Sir Middleton’s family.
Modified: Margaret Dashwood
From Description to Cast
Chapter 1
Elinor, this eldest daughter, whose advice was so effectual, possessed a strength of
understanding, and coolness of judgment, which qualified her, though only nineteen, to be
the counsellor of her mother, and enabled her frequently to counteract, to the advantage of
them all, that eagerness of mind in Mrs. Dashwood which must generally have led to
imprudence. She had an excellent heart;--her disposition was affectionate, and her feelings
were strong; but she knew how to govern them: it was a knowledge which her mother had yet
to learn; and which one of her sisters had resolved never to be taught.
Marianne's abilities were, in many respects, quite equal to Elinor's. She was sensible and
clever; but eager in everything: her sorrows, her joys, could have no moderation. She was
generous, amiable, interesting: she was everything but prudent. The resemblance between
her and her mother was strikingly great.
– Chapter 10
Miss Dashwood had a delicate complexion, regular features, and a remarkably pretty figure.
Marianne was still handsomer. Her form, though not so correct as her sister's, in having the
advantage of height, was more striking; and her face was so lovely, that when in the common
cant of praise, she was called a beautiful girl, truth was less violently outraged than usually
happens. Her skin was very brown, but, from its transparency, her complexion was
uncommonly brilliant; her features were all good; her smile was sweet and attractive; and
in her eyes, which were very dark, there was a life, a spirit, an eagerness, which could
hardily be seen without delight.
From Description to Cast
• Kate Winslet – 17
• Emma Thompson – 19???
• (at that time she was 36)
From text to screenplay
• Plot and narration (diegesis):
• Episodes (→ sequences) preserved, eliminated,
modified (condensed), added, shifted
From text to screenplay
Norland Park (Chap. 1-5), death of the father, arrival of the new owners, Edward’s arrival, family
departure. The beginning of the main love plot: Elinor and Edward.
Barton Cottage (Chap. 6-15 ): arrival, meeting with Colonel Brandon, Marianne and Willoughby,
sudden departure of Colonel Brandon after receiving a letter, non-proposal of Willoughby and his
sudden departure. The setting of the secondary love plot: Marianne and Willoughby.
Barton Cottage (Chap 16-25 ) Edward’s visit, after Edward’s departure, arrival of Mrs Jenning’s other
daughter, Charlotte, with husband Mr Palmer and two miss Steeles; departure of the Palmers; Lucy’s
revelation of secret engagement with Edward, invitation to London. Evolution of main love plot.
London (Chap. 26-41 ) Absence of Willoughby, ball and meeting between Marianne and
Willoughby, Willoughby’s letter, Brandon’s account of Willoughby’s misdeeds with Eliza Williams,
arrival of the miss Steeles, dinner at Mr John Dashwood’s . Party where Lucy meets Mrs Ferrars. Visit
of Lucy and Edward at Elinor’s. Another ball where Elinor and Lucy meet Robert Ferrars. Fanny
invites the miss Steeles. Revelation of the secret engagement and Edward disinherited. Brandon’s
offer of a rectory. Development of both main and secondary love plots.
Cleveland (Chap. 42-45): Marianne’s illness, Mr Willoughby’s visit, return of Brandon with mother.
Barton Cottage (46-end) Marianne’s recovery and maturation, news of Mr. Ferrars’s marriage with
Lucy, arrival of Edward, revelation and proposal (not described). Reconciliation with Mrs Ferrars,
Edward and Elinor get married, so do Brandon and Marianne with Willoughby’s regrets.
Analysis of relevant changes:
Marianne’s Illness
(Chap. 42) Marianne's feeling, in her head and throat, the beginning of a heavy cold, […] Two delighted
twilight walks on the third and fourth evenings of her being there, not merely on the dry gravel of the
shrubbery, but all over the grounds, and especially in the most distant parts of them, where there was
something more of wildness than in the rest, where the trees were the oldest, and the grass was the
longest and wettest, had- assisted by the still greater imprudence of sitting in her wet shoes and
stockings- given Marianne a cold so violent as, though for a day or two trifled with or denied, would
force itself by increasing ailments on the concern of every body, and the notice of herself.
Prescriptions poured in from all quarters, and as usual, were all declined. Though heavy and feverish,
with a pain in her limbs, and a cough, and a sore throat, a good night's rest was to cure her entirely;
and it was with difficulty that Elinor prevailed on her, when she went to bed, to try one or two of the
simplest of the remedies.
[…] (chap 43) MARIANNE got up the next morning at her usual time; to every enquiry replied that she was
better, and tried to prove herself so, by engaging in her accustomary employments. But a day spent in
sitting shivering over the fire with a book in her hand, which she was unable to read, or in lying, weary
and languid, on a sofa, did not speak much in favour of her amendment; and when, at last, she went
early to bed, more and more indisposed, Colonel Brandon was only astonished at her sister's
composure, who, though attending and nursing her the whole day, against Marianne’s inclination,
and forcing proper medicines on her at night, trusted, like Marianne, to the certainty and efficacy of
sleep, and felt no real alarm. A very restless and feverish night, however, disappointed the expectation
of both; and when Marianne, after persisting in rising, confessed herself unable to sit up, and
returned voluntarily to her bed, Elinor was very ready to adopt Mrs. Jennings's advice, of sending
for the Palmers' apothecary.
Analysis of relevant changes:
Marianne’s Illness

Sense and Sensibility