Wilful, spirited Bathsheba Everdene owns a farm: unusual for a young woman in Victorian England. Even more remarkable is her intention to manage the estate herself. Enter Gabriel Oak, rejected suitor of our heroine, who proves to be a godsend in rural matters. The fact that he continues to adore her from afar does no harm either.

Oak’s presence on the farm gives Bathsheba the occasional hour off to perform rudimentary tasks, such as sending joke Valentines to lonely neighbours. One such is Farmer Boldwood, a man who has kept so tight a lid on his feelings for two decades that he responds to the February 14th missive with quite devastating passion, leaving the stunned Miss Everdene to think that she might just have to marry him out of sheer guilt.

While she’s teetering between conscience and ‘till death do us part’, Sergeant Frank Troy appears with his handsome looks, tight jacket and smooth ways, diverting her attention to the all-consuming joy of being wooed by a man who knows how to use his sword. Could he be The One? Or could too much glitter be a foil for an empty soul?

So the stage is set for Thomas Hardy’s most searing exploration into what love really is, the heights and depths to which it drives us and the guises which passion-without-substance will assume to deceive and ensnare the guileless.

Romantic, funny and devastating all at once, Far From The Madding Crowd is Hardy’s eulogy to Dorset during the industrial revolution, his attempt to preserve the traditions of the county with as much reality and as little sentiment as possible, and part of his personal quest to understand why human beings are sometimes so hopelessly cruel to one other.

 

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