Adapted from the 1862 novel of the same name, Lady Audley’s Secret is a classic example of Victorian melodrama. When we first meet the Lady Audley, the new, young wife of Sir Michael Audley, she appears sweet, loving, and devoted to her older husband. However, the scepticism of Sir Michael’s daughter suggests that all may not be as it seems. When Sir Michael’s nephew, Robert Audley, arrives with his friend, George Talbot, Lady Audley’s secret is revealed. She is George’s supposedly deceased wife, who “died” while George was serving abroad. Terrified that her secret will be revealed, Lady Audley pushes George down a well to meet his fate. However, she is observed by the drunken gamekeeper and must negotiate his blackmail attempts. When Robert also puts two and two together and realizes that Sir Michael’s wife is not who she says, Lady Audley takes desperate measures to attempt to kill the two men. However, her plot is foiled and she is further astounded when George appears alive after all. Driven to insanity, Lady Audley’s villainy comes to a sudden end as she keels over and dies on the spot.
Lady Audley’s Secret took London by storm when it was first produced in 1863 and portrayed one of the first dramatic female villains--a novelty in the 1860s!