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Performance Preview for Wuthering Heights

Performance Preview for Wuthering Heights

Show guide for Wuthering Heights

About the show

Aquila Theatre Company brings to life Emily Brontë’s classic story of all-consuming passion with a new production of Wuthering Heights.Themes of passion. revenge, family, class, and the supernatural saturate the tale.

The Story

2015 Wuthering HeightsThe story unfolds at Wuthering Heights, a manor on the Yorkshire moors in northern England. The owner of the manor, Mr. Earnshaw, resides there with his wife, his son Hindley, and his daughter Catherine. Earnshaw returns from Liverpool one day with an orphaned boy named Heathcliff, whom he intends to raise with his own children. 

The Earnshaw children initially detest the dark-skinned Heathcliff, but eventually Catherine becomes quite attached to him. The two soon grow inseparable, spending their days playing on the moors. After his wife’s death, Earnshaw grows to prefer Heathcliff to his own son. Due to Hindley’s cruel tendencies toward Heathcliff, Earnshaw sends Hindley away to college. 

When Earnshaw dies, Hindley inherits the manor and removes Heathcliff.  Heathcliff finds himself living as a dispossessed laborer, forced to work in the fields.  He desperately wishes to continue his close relationship with Catherine, but twists of fate and the changing affections of others prove to be unkind as he continually tries to win back the love he lost and a life that he desires.

Emily Brontë

Emily BronteBorn in 1818 in the village of Thornton, West Yorkshire, England, Emily was the fifth of six Brontë children, including her older sister Charlotte who went on to write the renowned Jane Eyre. She and her siblings enjoyed writing poetry and novels, and they studied French, German, and music.  Despite a lack of consistent formal education, Emily and her siblings had access to a wide range of published material. Sir Walter Scott, Lord Byron, and Percy Bysshe Shelley were among their favorites.

In 1845 Charlotte inadvertently discovered Emily’s private poems, and though Emily was angered by the intrusion, Charlotte convinced her to collaborate on a book of poems. Scholars believe Emily began to write Wuthering Heights at this time. 

In May 1846 a book of poems, published under the pseudonyms of Currer Bell and Ellis Bell, included 21 of Emily’s poems and 19 of Charlotte’s.  In December of 1847 Emily published Wuthering Heights Shortly after its publication, during her brother Branwell’s funeral in September 1848, Emily caught a severe cold, which quickly transformed into tuberculosis.  She died on December 19, 1848 at the age of 30. 

Until 1850 the novel appeared as the first two volumes of a three-volume set, printed under the names of Currer and Ellis Bell; the third volume of this set included Anne Brontë’s Agnes Grey. In December of 1850, after the success of Jane Eyre, Charlotte edited the manuscript of Wuthering Heights, adding selected poems and a preface, and she published it as a second edition. 

Emily could not have imagined the success her singular novel would achieve. Over 150 years later, Wuthering Heights still attracts new readers and remains a classic of English Literature.

Cultural Impact

Readers of the time were astonished by the presence of utterly repulsive characters, and the ominous, haunting undertones of Wuthering Heights. Though reviewers sometimes objected to these elements, they also recognized the indisputable power of the story.

A reviewer in 1847 wrote of the novel, that it offered “ample opportunity of sympathizing with the feelings of childhood, youth, manhood, and age, and all the emotions and passions which agitate the restless bosom of humanity.”  A reviewer in 1848 in Douglas Jerrold’s Weekly Newspaper described the novel as “very puzzling and very interesting” and a “powerful testimony to the supreme power of love.” 

Wuthering Heights PhotoOver a century and a half later, adaptations of and cultural references to this literary classic continually find their way into all art genres. In 1939 the film adaptation of Wuthering Heights, directed by William Wyler, starred Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon.  In 1961, poets Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes each wrote a poem entitled “Wuthering Heights.” Inspired by Brontë's story, Kate Bush released her debut single "Wuthering Heights" in 1978.  In 2008, British artist Sam Taylor-Wood shot pictures inspired by Wuthering Heights. Taken within a four-mile radius of Haworth parsonage, West Yorkshire where the Brontë sisters lived and worked, Taylor-Wood collectively titled the photographs “Ghosts.”

Aquila Theatre Company

Founded in London in 1991, the Aquila Theatre Company sought to make classical works accessible to a great number of people. Now based in New York City, the renowned Aquila Theatre Company fulfills that mission and expertly adapts works of classical literature into live performances. 

Known for surprising audiences with their unique interpretations of the classics, the Aquila Theatre visits 60 to 70 American cities per year. Past productions include Cyrano de Bergerac, Catch-22, Twelfth Night, The Canterbury Tales, and The Importance of Being Earnest. Aquila Theatre performs all across the United States including rural areas and inner city communities, allowing the performers to reach out to people of all walks of life.

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