Pride and Prejudice and the Art of the Tease.
Elizabeth Bennet teases Darcy and he cannot resist her.: ‘Indeed I do not dare…’
I have long regarded this exchange as one of the sexiest in fiction and one that shows how far Austen thrived on sub-textual erotica!
For teasing shows interest. Who would tease someone they didn’t like? In order to tease you I have to know or try to know something about your habits, mind and inclinations. Teasing is an imaginative investment and an emotional risk. It flatters you. It makes you( temporarily) the sole focus of my attention and receiver of my mental and psychical energy.
‘Despise me if you dare…’ Elizabeth Bennet challenges Darcy, knowing all too well that he does despise people and has even appeared to despise her earlier in the novel. Her message is complex. It stresses her uniqueness in speech, her self assurance and her palpable intelligence. She is intimate indeed! And such a challenge is a secret come on- secret even from herself.
But then she cannot ignore Darcy,; she cannot leave him alone; she cannot give up on this very special register as to do so would consign her to the banal sterile world of trimmed shrubberies and clumsy officers who never read , and would never desire to know ‘another’ in such a relentlesly demanding way.
Darcy’s reply is an admission of acceptance and even surrender, and reveals how far he is bewitched by Elizabeth Bennet. ‘ Indeed I do not dare…’ He accepts her contract; he yields to her. The subtext is that he is facing a threshold in terms of relationships that he has never met before, let alone crossed . He stuns her with this gallant reply and this makes for a momentary erotic hiatus!
Darcy may have money and worldly status but Elizabeth has power and Darcy lets her have it. He admires. He is fascinated. His gaze never wanders from her face and his words cannot stop seeking her out. She has teased him into surrender…
Carol Ann Duffy 15 ideas!
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