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Viewing Strategies

Before your class begins watching Middlemarch at home or at school, we recommend that you photocopy and distribute the information George Eliot and the Historical Context of Middlemarch. We also suggest that you break the class into small groups prior to viewing each episode, and ask the groups to discuss one or both of the pre-viewing questions provided in the accompanying unit.

After watching each episode, discuss the post-viewing questions and choose the activities in the unit that best meet your classroom needs. Exploring such topics as love and marriage, history, medicine, and law, these activities are well suited for both social studies and English classes and are designed for both individual and group work. With description, dialogue, and narration from the novel, these activities will also give your students an opportunity to appreciate the power and charm of Eliot's writing as they watch the series.

Plot Synopses

Episode I
In response to an invitation from the wealthy benefactor Nicholas Bulstrode, Tertius Lydgate -- a young physician with new ideas about medicine -- comes to Middlemarch to run a new hospital.

Against the advice of her uncle and sister, Dorothea Brooke marries the scholar Casaubon, a man she hardly knows. At Lowick, she meets Casaubon's impassioned cousin Will Ladislaw, whom she encounters again during her honeymoon in Rome.

Fred Vincy is in love with Mary Garth, but she won't have him until he earns her respect by settling on a career and paying his debts. Fred hopes for salvation through an inheritance from his Uncle Featherstone.

Episode II
There is much tension between Casaubon and Dorothea on their honeymoon in Rome. Upon their return they argue about Ladislaw, and Casaubon has a heart attack. Contrary to Dorothea's wishes, Brooke invites Ladislaw to Middlemarch.

Caleb Garth's family pays off Fred Vincy's debt. Shortly afterward Fred develops typhoid fever. After being misdiagnosed by Dr. Wrench, Fred is treated by Dr. Lydgate.

Lydgate begins to spend time with Fred's sister Rosamond and their flirtation becomes the talk of Middlemarch. The Bulstrodes warn them of its inappropriateness, but their words are forgotten in a moment's passion.

Episode III
On his deathbed Peter Featherstone orders Mary Garth to burn one of his two wills, but Mary refuses. As a result Featherstone's illegitimate son, Joshua Rigg, inherits Stone Court. Featherstone's nephew, Fred Vincy, receives nothing. Lydgate and Rosamond marry and their financial troubles begin. Ladislaw visits Lowick, to the delight of Dorothea. Casaubon, however, is vexed. He tells Will he must refuse the newspaper job Brooke has offered him or stay away from Lowick. Ladislaw ignores Casaubon's demands and takes the job. At Lowick, Casaubon asks Dorothea to abide by his as-yet undisclosed wishes after he dies. Later Dorothea goes to him with her answer, but finds him dead.

Episode IV
Aspiring politician Arthur Brooke delivers a muddled speech about reform and is heckled by the townspeople. Disillusioned, he decides to sell the Pioneer and suggests that Ladislaw give up his position at the paper as well. At first Ladislaw refuses, but later he relents. Dorothea learns of a hurtful provision in Casaubon's will from Celia. Though shaken, Dorothea is determined to return to Lowick and take charge of her life. Rosamond is pregnant. Despite her husband's warnings she goes riding, and when her horse shies, she faints and miscarries. Bulstrode buys Stone Court from Joshua Rigg. Later his old crony Raffies appears and tries to blackmail him.

Episode V
Lydgate pleads with Rosamond to help him deal with their debt, but she remains determined to ask her parents or his uncle for money. As a favor to Fred, Farebrother asks Mary under what conditions she might marry him. Rosamond tells Ladislaw about Casaubon's will, and he realizes he must leave Middlemarch. After Fred helps Caleb Garth settle a brawl between some railroad workers and farmers, Garth offers him a job as a land manager. Raffles returns to Stone Court, but Bulstrode again pays him off to leave Middlemarch and keep quiet.

Episode VI
In a letter, Lydgate's uncle scorns him for putting Rosamond up to asking for money. Lydgate, previously unaware of Rosamond's request, is despondent. He begins to gamble, but Fred stops him.

When Bulstrode withdraws his support of the hospital, Lydgate asks him for money but is refused. Later, at Stone Court, while Lydgate treats a sickly Raffles, Bulstrode decides to lend him the money. Against Lydgate's instructions, Bulstrode allows the housekeeper to give Raffles brandy. The brandy kills him, and when the hospital board learns of Raffles' death they demand that Bulstrode step down. Lydgate is assumed to be guilty by association. Dorothea goes to Lydgate's house and finds Will and Rosamond together. She leaves assuming the worst. Later, Rosamond tells her that Ladislaw is in love with her.

Teacher's Guide:
Viewing Strategies | Discussion and Activities by Episode
After-Viewing Activities by Episode | George Eliot: A Brief Biography
The Historical Context of Middlemarch | Looking at Film | eNewsletter Sign-up

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