English, Department of



Adam Bede

Date of this Version


Document Type



The George Eliot Review 36 (2005)


Published by The George Eliot Review Online https://GeorgeEliotReview.org


Adam Bede is not easily adaptable to the stage. Its structure is essentially narrative rather than dramatic, and much of its interest consists in the probing of moral issues and analysis of motive. A straightforward retelling of the plot without any sort of commentary (as often happens with television adaptations) would leave it an empty shell. Geoffrey Beevers is well aware of this and is concerned to preserve as much of George Eliot's own voice as he can. One way of doing this would have been to include a 'voice over' explaining, commenting and interpreting (as was done for example in the TV serial of Brideshead Revisited). Perhaps this would have worked best, but Beevers elected to place the commentary in the mouths of the characters themselves, so that they are constantly stepping in and out of their roles and addressing us directly. One gets used to this, but it is still often disconcerting. To have Hetty, for instance, with the rope still round her neck, tell us that 'Hetty was not pardoned but only had her sentence commuted to transportation' stops us in our tracks. Who exactly is talking to us? The most effective scenes are those where this sort of thing is not necessary, where the dialogue can be transposed 'straight' from page to stage, as in the confrontations between Adam and Arthur or Dinah's last interview with Hetty.