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The mixed race daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral is raised by her aristocratic great-uncle in 18th century England.
John Davinier: Yes, I love her! I love her with every breath I breathe.
Dido Elizabeth Belle: My greatest misfortune would be to marry into a family who would carry me as their shame.
Dido Elizabeth Belle: I have been blessed with freedom twice over, as a negro and as a woman.
Dido Elizabeth Belle: How can I be too high of rank to dine with the servants, but too low of rank to dine with my own family?
John Davinier: M'lord! If you find for the traders, you will be formalizing in law the concept of insuring human cargo. Lord Mansfield: That's correct. [to carriage-handler] Lord Mansfield: Drive. John Davinier: Then know that when you are gone, your legacy will be to have left Miss Lindsay in a world where she may be worth more dead than alive. Lord Mansfield: Miss Lindsay is not a slave. John Davinier: By the very grace of God! Lord Mansfield: [thumping on carriage's roof to signal driver to stop] This is not about Miss Lindsay. John Davinier: Of course it is. It's about all of us. It's about everything... everything that's important. Lord Mansfield: [pause] Mr Davinier, the world is a devastating place. You must learn to protect your emotions, if you wish to prevent matters both of law... and love, from devastating you.
[last lines] John Davinier: Can it be true? Dido Elizabeth Belle: Of course, he sees what I see. His words are as clear as... John Davinier: No. No, that your feelings for me are so? That you would be my wife? Because - because I cannot conceive of a life without you. Dido Elizabeth Belle: I love you. For all that you are, and with all, all that I am. [they kiss]
Lady Mansfield: Do you love her? Lord Mansfield: As though she were created by you and me.
Dido Elizabeth Belle: I remember my father's eyes. They were kind, gentle, a little like yours. John Davinier: Mine? Dido Elizabeth Belle: I mean in colour.
Lady Ashford: [to Lady Mansfield] Do you feel I have any lesser need to ensure my child's well being and future than you? [everybody remains silent] Lady Ashford: [looks around, then loudly referring to Dido Elizabeth Belle] Does she still have a tongue? Dido Elizabeth Belle: I have a tongue, madam. Though yours explains well enough why I may not marry your son. You view my circumstances as unfortunate, though I cannot claim even a portion of the misfortune to those whom I most closely resemble. My greatest misfortune would be to marry into a family who would carry me as their shame, as I have been required to carry my own mother - her apparent crime to be born negro, and mine to be the evidence. Since I wish to deny her no more than I wish to deny myself, you will pardon me for wanting a husband who feels forgiveness of my bloodline is both unnecessary and without grace.
Lord Mansfield: Mr. Davinier, what is the purpose of the law in your eyes? John Davinier: To provide certainty where otherwise there might be none.
Lady Mansfield: You never broke the rules. You simply become powerful enough to make new ones.
John Davinier: 'Tis pitiful. Such inability to simply know what value to put on another's life. Dido Elizabeth Belle: What price a worthless negro? John Davinier: You utterly misunderstand me. I am saying that no man may have the value of cargo. Human beings cannot be priced since we are priceless. Freeman and slaves alike. I am with others here. All students in law, applying pressure on the insurance companies to refuse from hereon to insure slaves on any ship. Dido Elizabeth Belle: But that would require a change in law. John Davinier: How can we expect to be civilized when we live in such a barbaric world? It is the utter injustice. Dido Elizabeth Belle: It is more than that. It is the shame of a law that would uphold a financial transaction upon that atrocity.
Dido Elizabeth Belle: Papa did not trust I could achieve a match that would raise my rank, or even equal it. John Davinier: You are above reducing yourself for the sake of rank. [removes his hat] John Davinier: I pray he would marry you without a penny to your name, for that is a man who would truly treasure you.
Lord Mansfield: [confronting them] This man's ambition includes you. You will endure shame and risk your position for a man without name, who will sully yours and drag your reputation into the gutter. John Davinier: I take great offense at your summation of my character without ever even taking a moment to know me. Where is your right? Lord Mansfield: Right? I have every right! John Davinier: That you will never have. Not until you cease from judging the entire world as those above and those below, and begin to see people as people. Human beings who think and feel no more or less than you do. Lord Mansfield: I know there is a lady in Belsize who is waiting to be your wife. John Davinier: No, I have an ambitious aunt in Belsize, who like you, assume that wealth and reputation are all that life depends on, and despises love as though it werre the devil's own creation! Lord Mansfield: Love? You claim love? Dido Elizabeth Belle: Stop! John Davinier: Yes! Yes! I love her! I love her with every breath I breathe! Dido Elizabeth Belle: Go, John. You do not deserve this. John Davinier: [bounds out the door] Dido Elizabeth Belle: Captain Sir John Lindsay would never have behaved like this. Lord Mansfield: Captain Sir John Lindsay would never have behaved like this, because Captain Sir John Lindsay was never here.
Captain Sir John Lindsay: I beg you, uncle, love her as I would were I here, and ensure that she is in receipt of all that is due her as a child of mine. Lady Mansfield: That is simply impossible. Captain Sir John Lindsay: What is right can never be impossible. Lady Mansfield: She is black. Captain Sir John Lindsay: She is my blood!
[repeated line] Lord Mansfield: Let justice be done, though the heavens may fall.
John Davinier: Does the law not have a duty? Does the Bench and Parliament not have a duty to uphold and create the laws that progress our morality, not retard it? If not to protect us from others, then to protect us from ourselves. Laws that allow us to diminish the humanity of anybody are not laws. They are frameworks for crime. And quite frankly, I really do not care if you as an individual are without character or conscience. But a land whose laws sanction, not control, the barbarous among its citizens, that is a country whose hope is lost.
Lady Mary Murray: Elizabeth, a word of advice, wait for no man, my dear.
Lord Mansfield: Society has a habit of disregarding one of its own even when opportunity provides.
Dido Elizabeth Belle: Must not a lady marry, even if she is financially secure? For who is she without a husband of consequence? It seems silly - like a free negro who begs for a master. John Davinier: Well, unless she marries her equal. Her true equal. A man who respects her.
Lady Mansfield: I just learned yesterday that Mr. Davinier is in town. Lord Mansfield: I'm not surprised, Dido is beginning to sound a lot like him.
John Davinier: Permit me to ask, why do you not dine with your family ever? Dido Elizabeth Belle: That is not correct. John Davinier: Forgive me, but twice now I have seen you separated from the gathering. I am confounded. Dido Elizabeth Belle: And well you might be when the son of clergy is permitted to the table before a lady of the house. John Davinier: Is that a reminder of my place? Dido Elizabeth Belle: No. It's a statement of mine.
John Davinier: You are above reducing yourself for the sake of rank.
Lord Mansfield: What do you want, Dido? What precisely are you looking for? I have enabled every rule of convention so that you would know exactly where you belong. And yet, little appears enough for you. Dido Elizabeth Belle: And what if there were not a rule, Papa? What if the rule that allowed you to take me did not exist? Would you have returned me to the slums? You *are* courageous. When it comes to the matters you believe in, society is inconsequential. You break every rule when it matters enough, Papa. I am the evidence.
Elizabeth Murray: If I were in your place, I would choose the man I love. I only hope he's worth it.
James Ashford: Miss Lindsay. Not husband hunting, are we? [approaching menacingly] James Ashford: Good Lord, I forgot, you have ensnared my brother. Tell me, are you to share his dining room as well as his bed? Dido Elizabeth Belle: Oh, Mr. James, your manners are as poor as your brother's finances.
Dido Elizabeth Belle: Is Mabel a slave? Lord Mansfield: I beg your pardon? Dido Elizabeth Belle: Is... Mabel... a slave? Lord Mansfield: She is free, and under our protection. Dido Elizabeth Belle: Oh, like me.
Elizabeth Murray: Aren't you quietly relieved that you shan't be at the caprice of some silly sir and his fortune? The rest of us haven't a choice. Not a chance of inheritance if we have brothers, and forbidden from any activity that allows us to support ourselves. We are but their property.
Lady Ashford: I had no idea she'd be so black.
John Davinier: Should not any lady be flattered to be such a subject? Dido Elizabeth Belle: How should any male know the ways of a lady when he has not mastered the ways of a gentlemen? John Davinier: Quite. Though one should be forgiven for thinking he is in the presence of a lady, when she is in fact still a juvenile.
[first lines] Captain Sir John Lindsay: How lovely she is. So much of her mother. Do not be afraid. I am here to take you to a good life. A life that you were born to. Here. [offers a candy] Young Dido: [tries it with curiosity]
Lady Mary Murray: You should not always insist on speaking your mind, you know. You'll end up an old maid, with only your own company as entertainment. Young Elizabeth: Like you, Aunt Mary? That's what the maids say. Lady Mary Murray: Oh, you little... Young Elizabeth: [runs away giggling]
Oliver Ashford: [referring to Dido Elizabeth Belle] She is intriguing, is she not? James Ashford: [staring contemptuously at Dido] I find her repulsive. Oliver Ashford: Well, I suppose she is... if you find a most rare and exotic flower so. James Ashford: [contemptuously] One does not make a wife of the the rare and exotic, Oliver. One samples it on the cotton fields of the Indies. Oliver Ashford: [chuckles] Why so far when it is right at my door? James Ashford: Then find a pure English rose to decorate one's home.
Lady Ashford: You will refrain from any intercourse with the negro. Lord and Lady Mansfield may find it fascinating to have a Lady Mulatto running around in their house, but I will not have one running around in mine. Oliver Ashford: She is an heiress. Lady Ashford: Although exceptions can be made. Oliver Ashford: It is said that her father left her a rather vast fortune. Lady Ashford: I mean to say, if that is your inclination. Oliver Ashford: She is rather soft on the eye. I have thought no further of it, Mama. Lady Ashford: Where do you get your information? Oliver Ashford: Her sister-cousin has a rather fast tongue.
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