Daniel Deronda Classroom Activities and Investigations
- Novel into Film
Print the excerpts from the novel and the screenplay and distribute to students.
- Adapting the Text
Scene One: Gwendolen meets Lydia Glasher
Plot: How did Andrew Davies alter this scene from the novel? List how the scene was changed for film, and speculate as to why Davies made those cinematic choices.
Dialogue: How much of the dialogue in the screenplay comes directly from the novel? What lines have been added, deleted, or changed? Select two lines and analyze why Davies altered them for the screenplay.
Acting: In the scene from the novel, identify sections where Eliot narrates the unexpressed thoughts and feelings of Gwendolen. View the video clip of the scene. How much does the dialogue reveal Gwendolen's reactions? How does Romola Garai (Gwendolen Harleth) use her movements and expressions to communicate the character's feelings? Return to the novel excerpt and underline the parts of the narration you saw her play on the screen.
- The Filmmaker's Art
Scene Two: Daniel meets his mother
In the video clip, examine which cinematic choices and tools bring the scene to life.
Costume: Read Eliot's physical description of the Princess, then observe her costuming in the film. What impression does the costume create? Has the description in the novel been followed closely?
Set: What details do you note when studying the set in this scene? What is the atmosphere in the room? Does the set created by the filmmakers match the description in the novel?
Camera technique: How is the camera used in this scene? Make notes in the screenplay describing the shot: how wide the angle is, how close the subject is. What is the camera doing at the most dramatic moment in the scene? What is the effect? Where is the widest shot in the scene? Why did the filmmakers make that choice?
Lighting: How is the scene lit? Who or what does the lighting emphasize? Is it darker or brighter than other interior scenes in the film? What is the effect of the lighting?
- Actor interviews
Imagine you are preparing to interview one of the actors in Daniel Deronda. Create a list of questions to ask, for example: Was this an easy or difficult role to play? Why? What was your favorite scene? Most difficult scene? How did you feel about the character you played? Now role-play the interviews with your classmates and answer these questions in character. Then read cast interviews.
- Two stories, one film
Daniel Deronda weaves back and forth between two worlds, the aristocratic world of country houses and the urban Jewish community. The title character, Deronda, travels between these distinct spheres and is a point of connection for the two plot lines. Why was Daniel Deronda written this way? How does each world advance our understanding of the other? Consider how well each part of the plot would work on its own, then reflect in writing: What would be lost if Daniel Deronda were two stories instead of one?
- Moral questions
Eliot's works are celebrated for their serious and compelling examination of the ethics of human conduct. What "big questions" does Daniel Deronda raise? List a few. Choose one of these questions, then write about how Eliot tries to answer it in Daniel Deronda. Continue past the novel and film to consider how or when this moral question arises in your own life and community and how you and others have answered it.
Daniel Deronda and Middlemarch | Classroom Activities and Investigations
If your students have viewed, read, or studied Middlemarch, engage them in a comparison of the plot, characters, and themes of Eliot's two novels. See also Teaching Middlemarch.
- Heroine and hero
Dorothea Brooke and Daniel Deronda are both searching for a vocation. How are their quests similar? How similar are they in other aspects of their character: personality, relationships with others, insightfulness, doubts, beliefs? For whom do you feel more sympathy? Which character do you find more interesting? Make a case outlining which main character is more fully and convincingly developed.
- Character pairs
Show the similarities and differences between pairs of characters in the two novels using Venn diagrams (e.g., Gwendolen and Rosamund, Mary Garth and Mirah, Gwendolen and Dorothea, Dorothea and Mirah, Daniel and Ladislaw, Mr. Brooke and Sir Hugo, Casaubon and Grandcourt). Which characters overlap most? Least? Which similarities surprised you? Discuss which of the characters face similar obstacles or ask similar questions.
- The problem of marriage
In both novels, a main character makes a bad marriage and then finds solace or new direction through her relationship with another man. How far do the similarities between these two love triangles reach? What motivates each woman to marry? Why is the marriage unhappy? What other choices did the woman have? What was the attraction of the other man? What was the outcome? What do these two marriages reveal to 21st century readers about the expectations and realities of marriage in Victorian England?
- Moral choices
How should we live our lives? What do we owe to others? Eliot's main characters wrestle with these questions. Rank the main characters from Middlemarch and Daniel Deronda on a moral scale by assigning students character roles. Imagine a line at the front of the room: at one extreme is "moral perfection," at the other is "utter immorality." One by one, have students physically place themselves (as their Eliot character) at a point on the line. Each succeeding student selects a spot either higher or lower on the moral scale, relative to others. Once all the characters have been positioned, students can propose shifting characters on the scale, based on persuasive reasoning. A majority vote moves the character.
Teaching Daniel Deronda:
Before Viewing Questions | After Viewing Questions
Classroom Activities and Investigations | Suggested Resources
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Essays + Interviews | Who's Who/Cast + Credits
Story Synopsis | Novel to Film | Russell Baker
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