We've all known that torrid feeling when the green-eyed monster of
jealousy rears its ugly head - it's just that some people are better
at dealing with it than others.
And a worst-case scenario would be that of Louis Trevelyan in Trollope's
He Knew He Was Right, who just can't cope with it at all.
"Louis is a well-educated, well-connected, handsome man who throws
it all away," reveals Oliver Dimsdale, who plays Louis.
The confrontation between Louis and his beloved wife Emily over her
liaisons with notorious womaniser Colonel Osborne drives Louis into
a vortex of misery and, ultimately, madness.
"There's no way you or I would throw it away to such an extent," continues
the infinitely more grounded and sensible Dimsdale, "but maybe he loves
Emily so much and he's so isolated from family and friends that he stubbornly
chooses the course of action that he does."
There's definitely sympathy from Dimsdale for his character, who he
says he understands and can empathise with - and they even share some
"He's very loving and kind and he's also as stubborn and as occasionally
jealous as I can be - but I would definitely have a number of things
to set him right on. I'd tell him to listen to his friends and family,
no man is an island; it's wrong to isolate yourself to the extent that
"I'm pretty sure that if Louis had had a family with whom he could
discuss these problems then he might not have gone so far down the road
of insanity as he actually does.
"He chooses to ignore the advice of his best mate Hugh and stupidly
decides to take the advice of some private detective - the first private
detective in literature, it turns out - to get out of the country for
"But the more he chooses to shut himself off and the more he's
forced to dwell so fanatically upon one thing, the more mad he goes.
"It's possible for me to think that if I were to cut myself off
from my girlfriend, my family, my friends, and choose to make decisions
completely on my own then I'd probably go a bit doolally as well."
As it is, you couldn't wish to meet a more pleasant and affable young
man. Dimsdale himself had a happy family upbringing in north Hertfordshire,
the one exotic element being his Swiss mother.
"I do feel very English but at the same time I'm very much at home
whenever I travel to Switzerland to see my grandfather or my cousins,"
He studied his mother's language, French, along with Economics at university,
but always knew that the only thing he really wanted to do was act.
"When I was 13 I got a radio play for the BBC and I just carried that
on at school and then at university. I thought to myself I'll give it
a crack, I'll go to drama school, I'll see whether I can make a living
out of this.
"I'm safe in the knowledge that I've tried my hand at many other
things and I know full well that this is the only thing I can do."
It could be construed as a brave choice because - though you'd never
know it from watching him in character - Dimsdale has a noticeable stammer,
something that could be seen as a big drawback in a profession where
the voice is paramount.
"It does seem ironic, but I don't really see it as a problem in many
ways. I just see it as something that I've lived with from the age of
about six or seven.
"I guess it's one of these things where you as the artist find your
voice in something, and ironically I found my voice in words and characters
and my imagination.
"I've learned how to handle it and how to get by. I had some speech
therapy when I was younger and was taught several techniques to help.
It's quite strange that once I've learned a line and I know the rhythms
of a scene or the traits of a character, then I no longer think of myself
as someone who stammers. So I don't."
And it isn't holding him back - his credits so far include playing
Shelley in BBC TWO's Byron and Shakespeare on stage. He is currently
playing Pip in Great Expectations at Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre
and now as Louis Trevelyan, he's becoming something of an expert on
the 19th century.
"That time had a big bearing on Louis's behaviour," he says. "In those
days it was generally considered wrong for a young woman to receive
a gentleman caller and to be on her own with him for a length of time.
That's just the way society was.
"There's one little scene in Louis's gentlemen's club where people
are whispering and talking about him. The humiliation of that would
have been unbearable in those days. It's very different to now I think.
"The raw emotion of jealousy is the same through the ages but
I wouldn't necessarily care as much about what friends or family were
thinking - I would care more about how I was feeling. I would have it
out with my girlfriend, and talk about it."
But then the quietly spoken Dimsdale seems much more reasonable and
adaptable than both Louis and his wife, realising that you can't always
just behave as you like.
"I went to Japan recently and I took the trouble to learn a bit of
their language, the 'please' and the 'thank yous', and I'd read that
it was really rude to finish a meal and then put the chopsticks high
in the air because it's tantamount to a gravestone or death.
"It's common knowledge that customs and etiquette are there to
be observed, so on the one hand I think Emily is doing right but then
again on the other hand…
"The reason Emily pushes it to the extent that she does is because
she comes from the Mandarin Islands and it was fine to express yourself
freely within their society, instead of the London etiquette where it's
more what one ought to say than what one actually feels."