Jude Fawley (Eccleston), raised by poor, illiterate farmers, wants nothing more than an education. He believes it is the only route to greatness. When his wife (Griffiths) leaves him, Frawley goes to the prestigious college town Christminster, but is denied admission to the university because he's a laborer. There he meets Sue Bridehead (Winslet), an intelligent, independent woman, and the two fall in love, but it's a forbidden love as they are cousins. They try to restrain their passion, and Bridehead even marries Phillotson (Cunningham), Fawley's childhood teacher. That marriage also fails and Bridehead and Fawley consummate their love. They are harshly shunned by England's Victorian society for being both unmarried and blood relatives. Bridehead has a much easier time coping with society's condemnation, but Fawley grows increasingly bitter.
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