What are your feelings about Lady Pole's depiction so far? I can't decide whether I hate it a little or hate it a lot. Her general state of undress and physical outrage, neither of which are present in the novel nor really at all appropriate of the period/her status, have been really distracting. I can't tell whether it's actually making for good TV or not. It's possible that I'm too familiar with the book and that's my main issue--thoughts?
I think Lady Pole seems fine! I don’t remember the book in much detail, but in the show she seems like a fairly typical gothic victim heroine. A teenage bride suffering from a mysterious ailment, wandering around being pale and tormented… and I don’t feel like her behaviour or costumes are inappropriate, given the circumstances.
Most of the time when we see Lady Pole, she’s an invalid. So she’s either wearing a nightdress (when she’s actually in bed/on her way to bed) or some kind of indoor dress and a blanket. We do see her dressed up for the dinner party in episode 2, at which point I thought her erratic behaviour was being portrayed as slightly inappropriate/embarrassing – but her husband didn’t want to criticize it because he was so glad she was alive again.
It’s also worth noting that in the Regency era, a lot of everyday dresses looked like nightdresses. She could very well be wearing a normal outfit in most of the scenes where she appears “undressed,” because Regency dresses could be very floaty and low-cut. It’s not the Victorian era, after all.
Either way, the only people who see her in this state are members of the household, Arabella (by accident) and Norrell (chaperoned, and in a position analogous to that of a doctor.) It’s the equivalent of staying at home in your PJs when you’re sick.
As for her behaviour, they probably had to dramatize things a bit compared to the book, but I don’t feel like it’s OTT. Remember, Lady Pole is a teen bride and heiress to a small fortune, and has just returned from the dead. So she has some leeway to be dramatic and emotional, especially in the privacy of her own home – where her husband plainly has no idea what to do.
By episode 2 she’s already very isolated, partly because her “madness” would not be accepted in polite society, and partly because she can’t handle everyday life any more. She’s exhausted, she has a terrifying problem that she physically cannot tell anyone about, and she just returned from the grave. It makes sense for her to be behaving erratically – no matter how “inappropriate” it would be for a young lady.
So far, Lady Pole’s storyline does a pretty good job of handling the ways in which women and mentally ill people were ignored and misunderstood by society. Sir Walter Pole seems genuinely well-meaning and anguished about her suffering, but he isn’t shown making an effort to actually listen to her. Instead he asks doctors and Mr Norrell and eventually Jonathan Strange (who doesn’t even know her), all while keeping her confined to the house in the early stages of the “mad wife locked in attic” trope. Arabella is the only one who listens to her, but when she passes on Lady Pole’s message to Jonathan, he just dismisses it because Lady Pole is “out of her wits.” Her whole storyline is about the frustration of being unable to communicate, which quickly drives her to distraction.