Who Emma’d Better?

As 2015 marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Emma, how fun would it be to compare and contrast those who’ve brought Emma to the big, little, and computer screens?! Silly to be sure, but as Emma herself states, “One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.”

Because Emma, like many Austen novels, has been styled for both the 19th and 20th centuries, this post will focus on the contemporaneous adaptations. One American, Gwyneth Paltrow, and two English, Kate Beckinsale and Ramola Garai, filled the lady from Highbury’s shoes. Unfortunately for Kate, her television adaptation came out the same year as the big-screen and budget Gwyneth Paltrow flick, so captures of her performance are few and far between.

I do not know whether it ought to be so, but certainly silly things do cease to be silly if they are done by sensible people in an impudent way. Wickedness is always wickedness, but folly is not always folly.

Gwyneth Paltrow, Emma, Miramax Films, 1996

Gwyneth Paltrow, Emma, Miramax Films, 1996

 

 

 

Elton may talk sentimentally, but he will act rationally." Mr. Knightley to Emma, Chapter VIII.

“Elton may talk sentimentally, but he will act rationally.”
Mr. Knightley to Emma, Chapter VIII.

 

 

 

 

"I have never had a high opinion of Frank Churchill." Mr. Knightley to Emma, Chapter XIII.

“I have never had a high opinion of Frank Churchill.”
Mr. Knightley to Emma, Chapter XIII.

 

 

 

 

 

"Brother and sister! no, indeed." Mr. Knightley to Emma, Chapter II

“Brother and sister! no, indeed.”
Mr. Knightley to Emma, Chapter II

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Her situation should secure your compassion. It was badly done, indeed!" Mr. Knightley to Emma, Chapter VII

“Her situation should secure your compassion. It was badly done, indeed!”
Mr. Knightley to Emma, Chapter VII

 

 

 

 

"But if he seems sad, I'll know that John has advised him against it. I love John!" Movie quote, not canon.

“But if he seems sad, I’ll know that John has advised him against it. I love John!”
Movie quote, not canon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Or he may seem sad because he fears telling me he will marry my friend. How can John let him do that? I hate John!" Movie quote, not canon.

“Or he may seem sad because he fears telling me he will marry my friend. How can John let him do that? I hate John!”
Movie quote, not canon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more." Mr. Knightley to Emma, Chapter XIII

“If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.”
Mr. Knightley to Emma, Chapter XIII

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Kate Beckinsale, Emma, ITV, 1996

Kate Beckinsale, Emma, ITV, 1996

 

It was as much as Emma could bear, without being impolite. Chapter XIV

It was as much as Emma could bear, without being impolite.
Chapter XIV

 

How long had Mr. Knightley been so dear to her, as every feeling declared him now to be? Emma, Chapter XII

How long had Mr. Knightley been so dear to her, as every feeling declared him now to be?
Emma, Chapter XII

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Oh! then, don't speak it, don't speak it," she eagerly cried. "Take a little time, consider, do not commit yourself." Emma to Mr. Knightley, Chapter XIII

“Oh! then, don’t speak it, don’t speak it,” she eagerly cried. “Take a little time, consider, do not commit yourself.”
Emma to Mr. Knightley, Chapter XIII

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"I stopped you ungraciously, just now, Mr. Knightley, and, I am afraid, gave you pain.—But if you have any wish to speak openly to me as a friend, or to ask my opinion of any thing that you may have in contemplation—as a friend, indeed, you may command me.—I will hear whatever you like. I will tell you exactly what I think." Emma to Mr. Knightley, Chapter XIII

“I stopped you ungraciously, just now, Mr. Knightley, and, I am afraid, gave you pain.—But if you have any wish to speak openly to me as a friend, or to ask my opinion of any thing that you may have in contemplation—as a friend, indeed, you may command me.—I will hear whatever you like. I will tell you exactly what I think.”
Emma to Mr. Knightley, Chapter XIII

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Romola Garai, Emma, BBC One, 2009

Romola Garai, Emma, BBC One, 2009

"There are secrets in all families." Mr. Weston, Chapter 14

“There are secrets in all families.”
Mr. Weston, Chapter 14

"Where shall we see a better daughter, or a kinder sister, or a truer friend?" Mr. Weston to Mr. Knightley, on Emma; Volume 1, Chapter 5

“Where shall we see a better daughter, or a kinder sister, or a truer friend?”
Mr. Weston to Mr. Knightley, on Emma; Volume 1, Chapter 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"A mind lively and at ease, can do with seeing nothing, and can see nothing that does not answer." Emma; Volume 2, Chapter 9

“A mind lively and at ease, can do with seeing nothing, and can see nothing that does not answer.”
Emma; Volume 2, Chapter 9

"It is always incomprehensible to a man that a woman should ever refuse an offer of marriage. A man always imagines a woman to be ready for anybody who asks her." Emma to Mr. Knightley; Volume 1, Chapter 8

“It is always incomprehensible to a man that a woman should ever refuse an offer of marriage. A man always imagines a woman to be ready for anybody who asks her.”
Emma to Mr. Knightley; Volume 1, Chapter 8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Better be without sense, than misapply it as you do." Mr. Knightley to Emma; Volume 1, Chapter 8

“Better be without sense, than misapply it as you do.”
Mr. Knightley to Emma; Volume 1, Chapter 8

"I am very much astonished, Mr. Elton. This to me! you forget yourself—you take me for my friend—any message to Miss Smith I shall be happy to deliver; but no more of this to me, if you please." Emma to Mr. Elton; Chapter 15

“I am very much astonished, Mr. Elton. This to me! you forget yourself—you take me for my friend—any message to Miss Smith I shall be happy to deliver; but no more of this to me, if you please.”
Emma to Mr. Elton; Chapter 15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Whom are you going to dance with?" asked Mr. Knightley. She hesitated a moment, and then replied, "With you, if you will ask me." Volume 3, Chapter 2

“Whom are you going to dance with?” asked Mr. Knightley. She hesitated a moment, and then replied, “With you, if you will ask me.”
Volume 3, Chapter 2

"Can you trust me with such flatterers?—Does my vain spirit ever tell me I am wrong?" Emma to Mr. Knightley; Volume 3, Chapter 2

“Can you trust me with such flatterers?—Does my vain spirit ever tell me I am wrong?”
Emma to Mr. Knightley; Volume 3, Chapter 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She was vexed beyond what could have been expressed—almost beyond what she could conceal. Never had she felt so agitated, mortified, grieved, at any circumstance in her life. She was most forcibly struck. Volume 3, Chapter 3

She was vexed beyond what could have been expressed—almost beyond what she could conceal. Never had she felt so agitated, mortified, grieved, at any circumstance in her life. She was most forcibly struck.
Volume 3, Chapter 3

There, with spirits freshened, and thoughts a little relieved, she had taken a few turns, when she saw Mr. Knightley passing through the garden door, and coming towards her. Volume 3, Chapter 13

There, with spirits freshened, and thoughts a little relieved, she had taken a few turns, when she saw Mr. Knightley passing through the garden door, and coming towards her.
Volume 3, Chapter 13

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Tell me, then, have I no chance of ever succeeding?" He stopped in his earnestness to look the question, and the expression of his eyes overpowered her. "My dearest Emma," said he, "for dearest you will always be, whatever the event of this hour's conversation, my dearest, most beloved Emma—tell me at once." Mr. Knightley to Emma; Volume 3, Chapter 13

“Tell me, then, have I no chance of ever succeeding?” He stopped in his earnestness to look the question, and the expression of his eyes overpowered her.
“My dearest Emma,” said he, “for dearest you will always be, whatever the event of this hour’s conversation, my dearest, most beloved Emma—tell me at once.”
Mr. Knightley to Emma; Volume 3, Chapter 13

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What did she say? Just what she ought, of course. A lady always does. She said enough to show there need not be despair – and to invite him to say more himself. Volume 3, Chapter 13

What did she say? Just what she ought, of course. A lady always does. She said enough to show there need not be despair – and to invite him to say more himself.
Volume 3, Chapter 13

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next week I’ll examine the modern Emma.

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