It’s Day 3 of our Pride & Prejudice contest. After yesterday’s eye-candy I hope this post isn’t a disappointment!

Since we’ve talked about heroines and heroes, I’ve decided to talk about villains.

Years ago, I read about a scholarly debate as to who is the villain of P&P. Is it Wickham, Mrs. Bennet, Mr. Bennet, Lydia, Mr. Collins, Miss Bingley or Lady Catherine De Bourgh? I laughed, because I doubt Jane plotted her story around any literary concept of protagonist/antagonist. She was writing about people. More specifically, about families.

You have Elizabeth and Jane—two perfectly lovely sisters with a most Embarrassing Family. Mrs. Bennet–the archetypal foolish, matchmaking mamma. Mr. Bennet, the witty but lax father. Younger sisters including poor, pedantic Mary and the terminally featherheaded Kitty and Lydia.

This mix doesn’t surprise me. As the eldest of 4 (and the only girl) I know that the oldest siblings often turn out more responsible than the rest.

Then let’s not forget the other relative, the painfully pompous Mr. Collins who pays court to Elizabeth once he’s told Jane is taken.

My favorite Embarrassing Family moment from P&P is the Netherfield ball. Poor Elizabeth! Not only does she not see Wickham there, but Mr. Collins makes a fool of himself trying to seek Darcy’s favor. Her mother openly boasts that Jane will marry Mr. Bingley. Her younger sisters behave like hoydens, except for Mary, who shows off at the piano until her father admonishes her, perhaps a bit too glibly “You have delighted us all enough.”

(That last incident reminds me of my once-little brother, who liked to come to the door to entertain my dates with solos on his recorder. One of my own Embarrassing Family moments.)

But Darcy himself isn’t immune to the Curse of the Embarrassing Family. He’s got the stiff, censorious Lady Catherine De Bourgh trying to match him up with her “sickly and cross” daughter. His little sister Georgiana, though sweet and inoffensive in herself, has a potentially embarrassing secret in her past.

Even Wickham is related in a sense; he’s Darcy’s father’s godson. He and Lydia nearly ruin things for Elizabeth and Darcy.

Then in the secondary romance of the story, you have poor Mr. Bingley, a darling of a young man with two poisonous sisters, one of them with the hots for Darcy, or possibly, for Darcy’s ten thousand a year.

I was relieved Jane and Lizzie got the happy ending they deserved…far away from their relations!

“Mr. Bingley and Jane remained at Netherfield only a twelvemonth. So near a vicinity to her mother and Meryton relations was not desirable even to his easy temper, or her affectionate heart. The darling wish of his sisters was then gratified: he bought an estate in a neighbouring county to Derbyshire; and Jane and Elizabeth, in addition to every other source of happiness, were within thirty miles of each other.”

If you’re interested in what happened to the rest of the characters, check out Chapter 61 at the Pemberley website.

So who’s the P&P villain you most love to hate? Who do you think played the role best?

What is your favorite Embarrassing Family moment in P&P?

Any other favorite Embarrassing Family moments (real or fictional) you dare to share?

Answer any or all of these questions for a chance at one of TWO 10th Anniversary Collector’s Editions of A&E’s Pride and Prejudice. If you haven’t already, check out the contest rules and learn more about the prizes at the A&E store. Comment on each of this week’s posts for more chances to win!

Elena Greene
LADY DEARING’S MASQUERADE, RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, Best Regency Romance of 2005