It may be one of the most famous lines in English literature. Appearing near the end of Charlotte Brontë’s beloved bildungsroman, the titular Jane Eyre declares, “Reader, I married him.” These four words chime climactically for the “friendless orphan” who finds love while staying true to herself.
Like the great story ballets, Jane Eyre draws heavily from fairytales. It mixes the rags-to-riches of Cinderella with a bellicose beast of a lover who’s tamed by Jane’s inner beauty. A touch of Bluebeard materializes in a mad wife who’s been hidden in the attic, so her husband can take a new bride. All the drama transpires with shadows licking at the edges of both the morally claustrophobic Victorian era and Jane’s roiling conscience.
What sets Jane Eyre apart, then and now, is its confessional first-person point-of-view. You, the reader, have entry to Jane’s thoughts and feelings — even the carnal ones. She holds nothing back, and this access to another’s head and heart, scandalous at the time of publication, is riveting.
Translating this complex interiority to the theater’s third-person perspective is a challenging task. Choreographer Cathy Marston, who’s made a name for herself by bringing the literary canon to the stage, was tapped to create Jane Eyre . . .
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Isabella Boylston and Thomas Forster in Jane Eyre. Photo by Gene Schiavone