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When George Eliot published her final novel, Daniel Deronda, in 1876, she had already explored the themes of the negative influence of wealth and class upon women, marriage, and the family. In Daniel Deronda she enriched her portrayal of Victorian society by creating a main character with a Jewish background. In the novel, Daniel, a Jewish boy adopted into an upper-class British household, discovers his background, his people, and his heritage.

The BBC and WGBH Boston produced this three-part television serialization of Daniel Deronda. Daniel (Hugh Dancy) is an excellent young British gentleman when we first meet him, polished and handsome, thoughtful and compassionate. We know nothing about his background when we first meet him; indeed, he knows nothing about who he is until the climactic final episode. As the episodes unfold, with their lush settings, gorgeous costumes, and excellent characterizations, Daniel acquires more and more information about himself. Meanwhile, he catches the eye of exquisitely beautiful but shockingly spoiled Gwendolen Harleth (Romola Garai), who because of financial circumstances seems destined to marry the cruelly calculating (read sadistic) Henleigh Grandcourt of Downton Abbey fame.

BBC America
1 Season, 4 Episodes
November 23, 2002
Cast: Anna Popplewell, Romola Garai, Jodhi May, Hugh Dancy, Michael Attwell
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Daniel Deronda Full Episode Guide

  • Mordecai tells Daniel he is dying and that he knows Daniel is Jewish and will take over his ambition to become a leader of their people. Gwendolen, whose marriage has become increasingly unbearable, tells Daniel at the family Christmas gathering of her unhappiness. Though Daniel is moved by her anguish, he is increasingly aware that their intense friendship is attracting comments.

  • Daniel, out rowing on the Thames, saves Mirah Lapidoth, a young Jewish girl, from drowning. Daniel promises to help Mirah find her parents who she thinks may still be living in London. Daniel goes to see Grandcourt on business and meets the newly engaged Gwendolen. This chance meeting with Daniel increases her doubts about the marriage but by now there is no going back.

  • Daniel Deronda meets the beautiful Gwendolen Harleth for the first time. Gambling recklessly at the roulette table, he is struck by the vulnerability and despair that lurk behind her brilliant facade. Her family has fallen on hard times and they hope Gwendolen can attract a rich husband. Having given up his place at university, Daniel is wondering who he is and what to do with his life.

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