Elizabeth Bennet (later Elizabeth Darcy) 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 has been portrayed by Greer Garson in the 1940 film adaptation of the novel, by Elizabeth Garvie in the 1980 BBC mini-series, by Jennifer Ehle in the 1995 television series, by Keira Knightley in the 2005 film adaptation, and by Ashley Clements in the online modernized YouTube adaption.
Elizabeth is the second child in a family of five daughters. Though the circumstances of the time and environment require 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. She is considered one of the most beloved characters in British literature because of her complexity. Austen herself described Lizzy as "as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print."
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. 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. Upon his death, Longbourn will therefore be inherited by his cousin and nearest male relation, Mr. William Collins, a clergyman. 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. Elizabeth is also 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.
Elizabeth Bennet has become one of the most famous heroines in the history of English literature, known for her intelligence and independent thinking from the expected ambitions of her society. These qualities and her timeless 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 Chada'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. Emma Stone is currently rumored to star as the zombie-slaying Elizabeth Bennet in the film version of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a popular novel by Seth Grahame-Smith.
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.