by Samuel Richardson
Adapted for radio in four parts by Hattie Naylor
First Aired: March 2010
Starring: Zoe Waites, Richard Armitage, Oliver Milburn, Stephen Critchlow, and Sophie Thompson
I thought I'd post some thoughts on a radio adaptation I listened to recently based on this 1747 novel. It is one of the longest novels in the English language, so maybe that is why I'm not in a mood to tackle reading it at the moment, and add to that the tragic nature of it's hapless and powerless heroine, I much preferred listening to this radio adaptation. Especially when it stars Richard Armitage as the devilish rake Robert Lovelace. Oh Richard, why must your smooth baritone always indicate that you are dangerous?
The plot basically follows Clarissa who is being forced to marry a creepy old guy for his connections and to make sure she doesn't get involved with that libertine Robert Lovelace who has professed some interest in her. Clarissa's family is surprisingly jealous of her virtue and beauty, and reduces Clarissa to desperation when she finally allows Lovelace to carry her off. She was definitely not thinking clearly. Lovelace's assurances that he wants only to help her get away from her family's clutches is belied by the fact that he keeps her imprisoned in a house of ill repute, and because of his own experience with the fickleness of women, has decided to test how virtuous she really is. Oh, he finds out all right.
Richard Armitage gives Lovelace that charm that is necessary but completely unfair given how the character is completely irredeemable. He does some truly horrible things. And his attempts to trick Clarissa are relentless and continually inventive. And the way Lovelace slips into his completely-for-love act is mesmerizing and odious - he is so likable and hateful at the same time. Lovelace also continually treats Clarissa as some object to control, and Clarissa (being a woman in the 1700s) must fearfully put off his advances with appeals to her virtue and his (worthless) promises. It's frustrating to listen to Clarissa's meekness and ineffectual attempts to get away from Lovelace, but she does have an inner strength that Lovelace can not get at and Zoe Waites captures all this fantastically in the adaptation. The story moves along quickly, and though it is a tragic tale, I found it an entertaining listen, and loved the 1700s need to create a redemptive end for the characters.