Emma, Harriet & Mr Knightley

Read and watch three short scenes from 'Emma', in which the characters discuss who might marry who...

Emma Woodhouse
Emma, Ch.7

Emma is 20 years old, ‘handsome, clever and rich’. Spoilt, has complete confidence in herself, likes meddling in other people’s affairs.

In this scene she is addressing her friend Harriet, whom she has just persuaded to reject an offer of marriage from Robert Martin, a respectable farmer. She believes Harriet can do much better. Harriet’s feeling do not come into it.

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“Perfectly, perfectly right, my dearest Harriet; you are doing just what you ought. While you were at all in suspense I kept my feelings to myself, but now that you are so completely decided I have no hesitation in approving. Dear Harriet, I give myself joy of this. It would have grieved me to lose your acquaintance, which must have been the consequence of your marrying Mr. Martin. While you were in the smallest degree wavering, I said nothing about it, because I would not influence; but it would have been the loss of a friend to me. I could not have visited Mrs. Robert Martin, of Abbey-Mill Farm. Now I am secure of you for ever.”

Watch the scene, performed by Evie Kerr and Miriam Botzenhardt.

Harriet Smith
Emma, ch.9

Harriet is 17 years old, very pretty, artless, deferential, naïve.

In this scene she is speaking to Emma, who has just told her that she thinks Mr Elton is in love with her, and is encouraging her to think of him as a suitor.

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“That Mr. Elton should really be in love with me,—me, of all people, who did not know him, to speak to him, at Michaelmas! And he, the very handsomest man that ever was, and a man that every body looks up to, quite like Mr. Knightley! His company so sought after, that every body says he need not eat a single meal by himself if he does not chuse it; that he has more invitations than there are days in the week. And so excellent in the Church! Miss Nash has put down all the texts he has ever preached from since he came to Highbury. Dear me! When I look back to the first time I saw him! How little did I think!—The two Abbots and I ran into the front room and peeped through the blind when we heard he was going by, and Miss Nash came and scolded us away, and staid to look through herself; however, she called me back presently, and let me look too, which was very good-natured. And how beautiful we thought he looked! He was arm-in-arm with Mr. Cole.”

Watch the scene performed by Evie Kerr and Miriam Botzenhardt.

Mr Knightley
Emma, Ch.8

Mr Knightley is 37 years old, sensible, cheerful, respectable, kind. He is a wealthy landowner.

In this scene he is speaking to Emma, who he has just discovered has persuaded Harriet to reject Robert Martin. He argues that this is foolish and not in Harriet’s best interests – Robert Martin is a good match for her. He is annoyed and frustrated that Emma has behaved so rashly, but he also loves Emma so his annoyance is tempered with a kind of brotherly affection. He is more concerned about Emma than he is about Harriet.

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“Not Harriet’s equal! No, he is not her equal indeed, for he is as much her superior in sense as in situation. Emma, your infatuation about that girl blinds you. What are Harriet Smith’s claims, either of birth, nature or education, to any connexion higher than Robert Martin? She is the natural daughter of nobody knows whom, with probably no settled provision at all, and certainly no respectable relations. She is known only as parlour-boarder at a common school. She is not a sensible girl, nor a girl of any information. She has been taught nothing useful, and is too young and too simple to have acquired any thing herself. At her age she can have no experience, and with her little wit, is not very likely ever to have any that can avail her. She is pretty, and she is good tempered, and that is all. My only scruple in advising the match was on his account, as being beneath his deserts, and a bad connexion for him. I felt that, as to fortune, in all probability he might do much better; and that as to a rational companion or useful helpmate, he could not do worse. But I could not reason so to a man in love, and was willing to trust to there being no harm in her, to her having that sort of disposition, which, in good hands, like his, might be easily led aright and turn out very well. The advantage of the match I felt to be all on her side; and had not the smallest doubt (nor have I now) that there would be a general cry-out upon her extreme good luck. Even your satisfaction I made sure of. It crossed my mind immediately that you would not regret your friend’s leaving Highbury, for the sake of her being settled so well. I remember saying to myself, ‘Even Emma, with all her partiality for Harriet, will think this a good match.’”

Watch the scene, performed by Miriam Botzenhardt and Ed Saunders-Lee.