Howards End Comes To The BBC

By November 13, 2017Adaptations, Television

E.M. Forster‘s masterpiece Howards End (1910) has been adapted for television once more.

Forster is known for his commentary on social class and hypocrisies, and examining such with wit and intelligence. Howards End in particular places a magnifying glass on three families of varying classes at the beginning of the 20th century. In the novel the half-German Schlegel sisters look to help the impoverished Basts while also working with the rich Wilcoxes to rid them of their ingrained prejudices.

Howards End has been adapted for television once before as the BBC’s Play of the Month series in 1970 with Glenda Jackson. Much later, in 1992 actress Emma Thompson won an Academy Award for her role in the film remake of the novel, which also starred Helena Bonham-Carter (left), and Vanessa Redgrave.

Howards End has inspired two homages to the original story- one opera setting the story in 1950s Boston, USA, and a novel by Zadie Smith called On Beauty (2005). 

Howards End began on BBC One November 12th at 9pm. The latest adaptation stars Marvel actress Hayley Atwell as Margaret Schlegel, Matthew Macfadyen (of 2005 Pride & Prejudice movie fame) as Henry Wilcox, comedian and actress Tracey Ullman as Aunt Juley Mund. Adapted by Kenneth Lonergan and directed by Hettie Macdonald, it has already had positive reviews- one of which calling it “Downton Abbey for grown ups”. 

Some are quite rightly wondering whether we need another period series, full of nicely fitted bodices and handsome men in suits. The answer is, yes. Howards End is not just a romantic Edwardian drama. The focus is not on love and sex between the classes but ideas, and more importantly ideas of women. Class, capitalism, and gender, are still at the forefront of our modern lives and Howards End manages to still speak to us on an significant level.

With the help of an ever-more interconnected world, modern discourse has opened up to gender, class, and equality more than ever. With Brexit, the apparent rise of fascism and white supremacy in the West, and openly evolving ideas about gender and sexuality, Howards End seems the perfect adaptation to fit the current climate.

Hayley Atwell speaks of her role in the new Howards End adaptation.

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