Brush up on your Brontë: A Summary of Wuthering Heights
On Friday, March 6 Aquila Theatre will take the stage for its performance of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. Published in 1847 the novel is set on the Yorkshire Moors and tells a captivating story of passion and revenge. Learn more about this incredible performance before you go with the plot summary below:
ACT I Scene 1: Nelly tells the story of how Heathcliff, an orphaned gypsy, came to be at Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff is adored by Old Earnshaw and Cathy, and hated by Hindley, the eldest of the Earnshaw children.
ACT I Scene 2: Hindley is angered by his father’s affection for Heathcliff and beats him. Hindley is sent abroad to school.
ACT I Scene 3: Three years pass. Old Earnshaw dies and Hindley returns to Wuthering Heights with his bride, Frances. As master of Wuthering Heights, he confines Joseph and Nelly to the servants’ quarters and turns on Heathcliff and Cathy. On a rainy evening, after being whipped by Hindley, Heathcliff and Cathy escape to the moors. While spying on their closest neighbors, the Lintons, they are discovered and Cathy is attacked and bitten by the Lintons’ dog. Heathcliff recounts the tale to Nelly, explaining that Cathy remains at Thrushcross Grange while she heals.
ACT I Scene 4: Cathy has fully recovered from the dog’s bite and returns to Wuthering Heights, accompanied by Edgar Linton and his sister Isabella. Hindley remarks on the positive influence Edgar’s sister has had on Cathy. Cathy greets Heathcliff and comments on how filthy he seems compared to her generous hosts. Heathcliff is humiliated by the comments and runs off. Later that day, he asks Nelly to make him presentable. He vows to be good.
ACT I Scene 5: Nelly presents a cleaned and groomed Heathcliff to the household and their guests in the dining room. Hindley attempts to throw Heathcliff out. Edgar remarks on Heathcliff’s clothing and embarrasses him. Heathcliff throws hot applesauce in Edgar’s face, scalding him. Joseph and Hindley take Heathcliff outside to be whipped.
ACT I Scene 6: Heathcliff vows his revenge on Hindley.
ACT I Scene 7: Frances passes away after giving birth to Hareton, the young heir to Wuthering Heights.
ACT I Scene 8: Cathy prepares for a visit from Edgar and Isabella. She attempts to dissuade Heathcliff from keeping her company. Frustrated, Cathy insults Heathcliff. Edgar arrives without Isabella. The now enraged Cathy yells at Nelly. Edgar makes way to leave. He has never seen her behave in such a feral manner.
ACT I Scene 9: Hindley enters the room in a drunken rage, brutalizing Nelly and threatening to harm Hareton. He drops the infant to the ground. Heathcliff emerges from the shadows, catching the baby just in time. Hindley retreats into his room.
ACT I Scene 10: Cathy appears while Nelly is comforting the crying Hareton. She confesses to accepting Edgar’s marriage proposal. Cathy reveals that she truly loves Heathcliff but cannot marry him, as he has no wealth or status. Heathcliff overhears them talking and flees. He is not seen or heard from for three years.
ACT II Scene 1: Heathcliff returns to Wuthering Heights after amassing a fortune to seek his revenge. He first visits with Hindley and learns of Cathy’s marriage. He decides to visit her at Thrushcross Grange.
ACT II Scene 2: Cathy is overjoyed to see Heathcliff. Edgar is far less amused. Heathcliff reveals he is staying at Wuthering Heights. He calls on Cathy again. His visits earn him admiration from Isabella, which exhumes jealousy from Cathy.
ACT II Scene 3: Heathcliff calls on Cathy while Edgar goes to town. Cathy discloses Isabella’s intimate feelings for Heathcliff. Humiliated, Isabella manages to escape the room from under Cathy’s tight grip. Cathy casually relays that Isabella will be heir to Edgar Linton’s fortune, should Cathy not conceive a son.
ACT II Scene 4: Heathcliff finds Isabella in the garden. He kisses her. This enrages Cathy. She and Heathcliff quarrel passionately. Edgar overhears the argument and demands that Heathcliff depart immediately or he will use force. Cathy emasculates Edgar in an argument. Edgar strikes Heathcliff and demands that Cathy choose between himself and Heathcliff. Cathy refuses to engage further and flies into a fit, locking herself in her room.
ACT II Scene 5: Three days later Cathy emerges. She seems to go in and out of lucidity. Nelly becomes fearful for her fragile state and beckons Edgar into the room. Edgar quarrels with Nelly over not informing him of Cathy’s illness earlier and sends her to seek out Dr. Kenneth.
ACT II Scene 6: On going to see Dr. Kenneth, Nelly discovers Isabella’s dog tied to a fence post. She manages to free him from imminent death.
ACT II Scene 7: Cathy recovers briefly. A letter arrives from Isabella, asking Edgar to forgive her for marrying Heathcliff. Edgar gives Nelly permission to visit Isabella, but refuses to do so himself.
ACT II Scene 8: Nelly visits Wuthering Heights where she finds a disheveled household and a distraught Isabella, who is suffering under Heathcliff’s maniacal reign. Heathcliff demands that Nelly let him see Cathy.
ACT II Scene 9: Heathcliff visits Cathy while Edgar attends church. He finds her completely altered, nearing death’s door. The encounter is fraught with pain and abuses – each placing the blame on the other while also making passionate declarations of love. Cathy faints in Heathcliff’s arms as Edgar enters. Heathcliff demands that Edgar help Cathy before he deals with him.
ACT II Scene 10: Cathy dies giving birth to a daughter. Nelly finds Heathcliff outside Thrushcross Grange beating his head and fists against a tree. Grieving over the loss of Cathy, he puts a curse on her and demands that her soul haunt him to the end of his days.
For tickets to Aquila Theatre’s performance of Wuthering Heights at the Norton Center on Friday, March 6. CLICK HERE