In Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte created two incredibly memorable characters. The titular Jane is “poor, plain, and little,” but she is also the most stubborn heroine ever, and knows her own worth: “I can live alone, if self-respect, and circumstances require me so to do. I need not sell my soul to buy bliss. I have an inward treasure born with me, which can keep me alive if all extraneous delights should be withheld, or offered only at a price I cannot afford to give.”
Her foil, her true soulmate, is the irascible Mr. Rochester, whom Jane describes as having “broad and jetty eyebrows; his square forehead, made squarer by the horizontal sweep of his black hair. I recognized his decisive nose, more remarkable for character than beauty; his full nostrils, denoting, I thought, choler; his grim mouth, chin, and jaw—yes, all three were very grim, and no mistake.”
Rochester is arrogant, as stubborn as Jane, proud, obnoxious, and manipulative. And yet? And yet he is an iconic hero in literature, and his type shows up in romances as the Alpha male (most recently as a Billionaire rather than a wealthy man with an estate). Since Edward Fairfax Rochester is such a memorable hero, it’s time to round up the Top 4 On-Screen portrayals of Rochester (I stuck with four because these are the ones I think of when I think of Rochester; other people mentioned the William Hurt portrayal, and then there’s Orson Welles hamming it up against Joan Fontaine, but those aren’t MY Rochesters):
4. Ciaran Hinds comes closest to looking as Rochester is described in the book; he’s got a starkly grim look to him, and he plays Rochester as dour and bombastic, making pronouncements in that booming voice. When he is thwarted in his attempt to marry Jane, his anger is palpable, and a lesser woman than Jane would have been cowed by him.
2. Toby Stephens and Ruth Wilson made the Eyre/Rochester pairing a lot more overtly sexual than other iterations. Their chemistry is electric, and Stephens, while obviously handsome, is able to convey some of Rochester’s grim look.
1. Michael Fassbender imbues his Rochester with all the appropriate menace for a man who’s keeping his wife captive in the attic. He’s definitely got the grim thing down, as well, and he smolders in his scenes with Mia Wasikowska, who plays Jane. Shiver! In a good way!
Who’s YOUR Rochester?