Lady Chatterley’s Lover Vs The Scandalous Lady W

Two women, two shocking affairs. Have the smelling salts handy as we compare these these torrid tales…

Lady Chatterly's Lover

THE LEADING LADIES

LADY CHATTERLEY: As played by Holliday Grainger, Lady Constance Chatterley certainly doesn't look like she could be the most infamous adulteress in English literature. With her cherubic cheeks and peaches-and-cream complexion, she radiates innocence. But don't be deceived. Despite being bound by the strict codes of the 1920s aristocracy, this lady of the manor is shocked by her own growing passions for a man so much lower down on the social scale. And if she's taken unawares by her own actions, that's nothing compared to how others will feel when they find out.

LADY W: In contrast to Constance Chatterley, Lady Worsley is a more obviously sultry and self-possessed woman. After all, she is played by Natalie Dormer, who has a sly, cat-like charisma - one look at this lady, and you know that she'll be nobody's fool. And that's just as well, because - like Constance - she is constrained by the demands of high society, and the men who runs things. Well, we say constrained, but it isn't long before the nation is scandalised by the defiant and rebellious Lady Worsley, who is married to an MP and expected to maintain decorum. Fat chance of that happening.

THE AFFAIRS

LADY CHATTERLEY: The story of Lady Chatterley is simple... on the surface. We have a beautiful young woman married to the very posh Sir Clifford. Their marriage is wrecked by World War One, which leaves him impotent and frustrated, and drives her into the arms of rugged gamekeeper Mellors. But what makes this story so rich is that it doesn't resort to stereotypes. Sir Clifford isn't just some effete, cuckolded toff - he's a dashing, heroic and attractive figure, and we feel real sympathy for his plight. Mellors, meanwhile, isn't just a brooding bit of eye candy, but a man struggling to find his place in the world, and deeply aware of the class gulf between him and the woman he's had the misfortune to fall in love with.

Picture Shows: Aneurin Barnard as George Bisset and Natalie Dormer as Lady Seymour Worsley.

Picture Shows: Aneurin Barnard as George Bisset and Natalie Dormer as Lady Seymour Worsley.

LADY W: If you don't know the (very true) story of Lady Worsley, brace yourself. Unlike Lady Chatterley's Lover, this isn't a straightforward saga of one forbidden affair. It's a story of wild debauchery in the highest levels of British society, with Lady Worsley's husband actually orchestrating her sexual exploits with other men. You see, he's a voyeur addicted to seeing his wife misbehave with others - a predilection which backfires spectacularly when she falls in love with one of the very men he asks her to sleep with. And as if that isn't messy enough, the jilted husband decides to take the whole squalid matter to court...

THE RAUNCH FACTOR

LADY CHATTERLEY: Here's something that may come as a surprise. This version of Lady Chatterley's Lover isn't all that heavy on the hanky panky. Or, indeed, the rumpy pumpy. Don't get us wrong, this is still a sizzling story of illicit adoration, and we'll certainly be treated to loving shots of Mellors' work-toned chest. But, unlike raunchier adaptations in the past, this one tones down the rolling-in-the-hay stuff in favour of emphasising the other aspects of the story. Namely, love and longing, and the forces which keep Constance and Mellors apart.

Picture shows Holliday Grainger as Constance Chatterley.

Picture shows Holliday Grainger as Constance Chatterley.

LADY W: The Scandalous Lady W is an altogether raunchier, more X-rated drama than Lady Chatterley's Lover. Which shouldn't really be surprising, given that it's about a randy, peeping tom politician, his randy wife, and her large succession of lovers. Not only are we privy to plenty of fleshly delights, but the language can be rather earthy as well, despite it being set in the 1780s. There's some fascinating 18th Century sexual slang ("rantum-scantum"), and even some coarse language you might not have thought even existed back then. But it did - some of these lines are taken from accounts written at the time.

THE BIGGER THEMES

LADY CHATTERLY: Right from the start, it's clear Lady Chatterley's Lover is far more than just a love story. The first thing we see is a devastating explosion in a coal mine, with injured men being hauled up from the inferno below, and bosses hastily trying to cover up the mess. The theme of working class strife, and the rigid power structure of British society at that time, is reflected in the relationship between Constance and Mellors. He's morbidly aware that he's "below" her socially, while Lady Chatterley's peers don't even regard their servants as real, thinking human beings. It makes their affair all the more forbidden and poignant, as they try to shed the baggage of their era in the name of love.

LADY W: If Lady Chatterley's story is bound up with class, Lady Worsley's is very much about the place of women in society. In the eyes of her upper-crust 18th Century peers, she is literally considered a possession of her husband - a commodity. When she elopes with her lover, her husband actually attempts to sue the man for tarnishing his property - ie, Lady Worsley herself. What makes the story so gripping is seeing how she actually uses the bigoted laws of the time to her own advantage, turning the whole system on its head, and stubbornly asserting herself as a strong woman centuries ahead of her time.