As many of you guessed, the actor who inspired wails in the tiniest actresses in Emma was Mark Strong/Mr. Knightly. Perhaps that experience is why he has since played villains!
Several of you expressed dissatisfaction with Mssr. Strong as Emma’s Mr. Knightly, but I confess I like him the best and perhaps for the same reasons some have called him “stern,” though I never saw it. Well, actually, yes I have, and his characterization (or his director’s) rang true to me…much more so than Jeremy Northam’s version. When Strong’s Knightly says, “Badly done, Emma, badly done!” the weight of his censure is heavy, indeed. On the other hand, but in likewise seriousness, we have his portrayal of concern for Harriet’s shunning at the ball. Here is a man who feels his duties deeply and performs them from a tender heart. I just thought Mark Strong did that beautifully and conveyed throughout his patient love for Emma and desire for her real ‘improvement” in ways unplumbed by subsequent actors. I don’t know how he feels about his work in Emma, but I think it a highlight of his career. I can’t say that I’ve seen him in anything since that even came close! IMHO of course!
Naturally, these opinions beg the question of what Austen was meaning to portray in the person of Mr. Knightly. Peter Leithart, a Fellow of Theology and Literature at New Saint Andrews College, has named Emma, as “Perhaps the most Christian novel Austen wrote:
Emma is concerned with the relations of charity and truth: it is about “speaking the truth in love,” or more precisely, about truth-speaking as the path to love. Everyone around Emma flatters her, admires her, and generally regards her as a perfect specimen of womanhood. Only Mr. Knightly sees her as the flawed young women she really is, and only he tells her so, often in very blunt terms. Mr. Knightly is the right man for Emma precisely because he speaks truth.” Later in his essay he states: “Knightly is the guide (to community through charity and by speaking truth) here, the savior who delivers Emma from her own folly and at the same time ensures the survival of the community of neighbors in Highbury”
Sound like Mark Strong’s Knightly? To those of you who would like to read Leithart’s essays on the rest of Austen’s novels, please get yourself a copy of Miniatures & Morals. You are in for a treat! After all, his first chapter is entitled “Real Men Read Austen.”
So…drum roll…the winner of a copy of Jane Austen Made Me Do It! , signed by moi, is in the mail to Stephanie Carrico. Thank you to all who entered and keep up with my thoughts here at Traipsing After Jane or at Jane Started It!