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Emma and Mr Knightley – The Most Romantic Moment of the Month

What’s not to love about Emma and Mr Knightley’s proposal scene in the latest Jane Austen adaptation?

Emma and Mr Knightley often live in the shadows of other more popular Jane Austen couples. Sure, Emma isn’t a story of pride, prejudice, gothic mansions, or second chances. Instead, Emma and Mr Knightley’s love story builds on a deep foundation of friendship.

Yes, Mr Knightley scolds Emma (and rightfully so at times) but not to be condescending. Rather, he helps Emma find her best self. And she does. She listens. Undoubtedly, the greatest love stories are about finding the one person who makes you better.

Furthermore, let’s also not forget Mr Knightley’s grand gesture and sacrifice. He moves into Emma’s home to help take care of her father. This swoony romantic and selfless hero could have lived at his own impressive estate and maintained his independence. But he doesn’t. 

Emma is a love story about trust and a marriage based on an equal partnership, and that’s what I love about them. Their romance is rather remarkable for the time period and deserves far more recognition.

And with Emma recently released on DVD/Blu-ray, I couldn’t imagine highlighting a more romantic moment than from the words of Jane Austen, who created the epic romance of Emma and Mr Knightley.

Emma and Mr. Knightley Dance

Mr Knightley: With whom will you dance?

Emma Woodhouse: With you. If you will ask me. You have shown that you can dance, and we are not really so much brother and sister as to make it improper.

Mr Knightley: No, indeed.

At first, I didn’t know what to think about Autumn de Wilde’s stylish and colorful adaptation. Was it too trendy and modern? Mr Knightley (Johnny Flynn) sexier than the character ought to be? However, halfway through, my hesitation transformed into complete enjoyment, and I happily immersed myself into the stunning and visual world Autumn had created for us.

Certainly, there were several romantic moments to appreciate over the past couple of months. Still, I found the Emma and Mr Knightley proposal scene to be both loveable and heartwarming, bloody nose, and all.

Emma and Mr Knightley – The Lead-In

The new Emma 2020

I have none of the usual inducements of women to marry. Fortune I do not want. Employment I do not want. Consequence I do not want.


Emma Woodhouse (Anya Taylor-Joy) loves interfering in the love lives of others. She thinks she’s a talented matchmaker after her success with her governess. Unfortunately, for poor Harriet, that is, she’s not. Harriet learns the hard way with the pompous Mr Elton, who only had eyes for Emma. Emma, who has no need or desire ever to marry.

But regrettably, Emma’s meddling has terrible consequences. Or so she thinks that is. Emma realizes her own feelings for a particular gentleman a little late. When Harriet turns her broken heart to Mr Knightley, Emma must resolve her own feelings and realizes she loves Mr Knightley. Could it be that her Mr Knightley loved another? Was she too late?

Meanwhile, Mr Knightley understandably believes Emma is disappointed about the news Frank Churchill is engaged to Jane Fairfax. Nevertheless, he must tell Emma how he feels.

Emma and Mr Knightley – The Romantic Moment

Mr. Knightley walks towards Emma

While pondering her feelings, Mr Knightley walks towards Emma in a scene that does Matthew MacFadyen’s Darcy proposal walk proud. He tells her that “Time, my dearest Emma, time will heal the wound.” But Mr Knightley is “mistaken” in Emma’s feelings regarding the devious Frank Churchill.

Still, Mr Knightley is envious of Frank.

Emma and Mr Knightley proposal scene

Mr Knightley: You will not ask me why. You are determined, I see, to have no curiosity. You are wise. But I cannot be wise. I must tell you, Emma, what you will not ask, though I may wish it unsaid the next moment.

Emma Woodhouse: Then do not speak it.

Poor Emma thinks Mr Knightley talks of Harriet. She’s afraid to hear the truth and lose him forever. Mr. Knightley walks away, but Emma realizes she’s in the wrong. She must know the truth, whatever it may be. “As a friend.”

Mr Knightley proposal scene.

 As a friend. Emma, that, I fear, is a word… Tell me, Emma, have I no chance of ever succeeding? My dearest Emma, for dearest, you will always be. My dearest, most beloved Emma, tell me at once. I cannot make speeches. If I loved you less, then I might be able to talk about it more, but you know what I am. I have lectured you, and I’ve blamed you, and you have borne it as no other woman in England could have borne it. God knows I have been a very indifferent lover. But you understand me. You understand my feelings.

– Mr George Knightley

After awkwardly rambling through his confession, Mr Knightley gently touches her tearful, astonished face, and then he asks her to marry him.

Mr Knightley touches her face

Can a speech be any more swoony than that? But the scene between Emma and Mr Knightley becomes even more adorable with an added touch, not in the book. Emma’s nose bleeds in a quirky way that matches the stylistic choices of the film.

Emma's nose bleeds.

“No,” she can’t marry Mr Knightley because of Harriet! But obviously, she will marry him, and both leave the scene happy with thoughts of their future.

Emma takes Knightley's hand.

But first, she needs to talk to Harriet and fix her own mistakes.

They lean in for a kiss.

Then, there’s the dreaded talk to look forward to with Mr Woodhouse, who despises change. But with Mr Knightley’s grand romantic gesture, Emma and Mr Knightley kiss, and the movie ends with a beautiful wedding. It’s everything a lovely and romantic Jane Austen movie adaptation should be.

Emma 2020 marriage scene.
Happily ever after!

What are your thoughts on the latest adaptation of Emma and the portrayal of Emma and Mr Knightley? Were you okay with the nose bleed, or do you think it detracts from Jane Austen’s original proposal scene? Sound off below…

Photo Credits: Focus Features

Emma and Mr Knightley (2020) – The Most Romantic Moment of the Month; Pinterest image


By on May 31st, 2020

About Autumn Topping

In second grade, Autumn wrote her first story, “The Spinach Monster,” and hasn't stopped writing since. Intrigued by the tales her grandmother told of vampires, witches, and ghosts as a girl, she's always been drawn to the fantastic. Later, Autumn studied English and Creative Writing (continuing her love for classic literature and everything old-fashioned) and graduated with an MA in Children’s Literature and an MS in Library & Information Science from Simmons College. Currently, she co-runs this lovely site and works as a YA Librarian.

More posts by this author.

13 thoughts on “Emma and Mr Knightley – The Most Romantic Moment of the Month”

  1. I really enjoyed this adaptation! The only criticism I would have is what I usually feel when watching movie versions of Jane Austen adaptations. Since they are necessarily shorter, I always get the sensation that it is a bit rushed. I miss the leisurely pace of a mini series. I have to say though that this adaptation dealt with time constraints very well. It was beautiful to look at. Those scenes in the church. The mountains of little cakes. Emma’s lovely clothes. Anya also embodied Emma perfectly and Johnny was excellent too.

    I have seen some people who are dead set against the nose bleed which I don’t understand. I like how unexpected it was, and I thought that it showed clearly that the usually perfectly elegant, smug and poised Emma had completely lost her emotional cool. I think it also shows a rush of very powerful internal feelings which is exactly how Emma was feeling at the moment.

    The nose bleed prevented Emma and Knightley from kissing at the moment, but since they had delightful kissing scene before the movie ended, I was quite satisfied.

  2. I am an avid Jane Austen fan. I cannot claim to have seen every single adaptation but I will boast, I’ve seen most of them! I love a bit of added romance – won’t complain about that but I didn’t like the nose bleed – too distracting from a very sweet, romantic scene. AND, perhaps no one will agree, but I much prefer Jeremy Northam’s portrayal of Mr. Knightley. I must confess, Emma is my second favorite movie – Pride & Prejudice (Colin Firth version) will always hold 1st place! But Emma is light-hearted and close to my heart too.

    • While I did enjoy this Emma adaptation, I admit Jeremy Northam is my favorite Mr. Knightley with Jonny Lee Miller close behind. Overall, the 2009 miniseries is my favorite version of Emma. 🙂

  3. I love the nosebleed because it is unexpected and instantly adds humanity to Emma. It’s fitting to the movie and how Emma must feel there. It’s also very tender the way he is concerned for her and he touches her face. I love his happy smile in the end when he wordlessly understands that weird and all, she basically said yes.

    It makes me laugh that people complain about her nosebleed ‘ruining’ the romantic moment and I’m like.. you missed the point but also proved the point the director is trying to make here. We are so used to watch conventional but fake romantic scenes that lack human authenticity and Autumn De Wilde, with the perfect world she creates for these characters contrasted with the moments where their humanity ‘ruins’ that perfection, is just telling us that being human is a thing you can’t control and our body can have unexpected reactions. You can’t always be perfect. In this movie they also show Knightley having a panic attack because he’s overwhelmed by his feelings for Emma.. how many times movies do that? Especially period dramas. He also cries.. twice. This is my fav Knightley now followed by Northam. I just love how human this Knightley is and there are characteristics of the guy from the book that they finally got and that other versions didn’t get. I also think he’s the one who perfectly captured the essence of that infamous ‘if i loved you less’ line with the way he struggles with his declaration of love (conveying the fact, also, his impulsivity because he didn’t go to her to declare his feelings. He didn’t create a speech in his mind that he tried over and over and then he said his lines)

    I think the nosebleed was a clever way to prolong their romantic moment too by not making them kiss, as anyone would expect, there. That way they can get a proper kiss, thus another romantic moment, later. And they get to show us a sweet wedding scene too that also is very tender.

    I watched all versions of Emma and this is my fav. They captured the spirit of Austen and her satire and it’s a faithful to the book adaptation with some creative, unexpected, choices that make this movie more unique. I love the novel so it made me happy to see both the main moments I already know but also I got some nice surprises that made the movie less predictable for someone who knows the story. The chemistry between Emma and Knightley is the best of all the combinations I watched (that dance scene alone is swoon worthy!); it’s so strong since their first scene that you can tell they are in love way before they realise it themselves.

    • It drives me crazy that I can’t understand what Emma’s reply is to Kneightly is. I understood that Emma was referring to the dance that Kneightly asked her for, but the words she replied after that were too hard to understand! Did you understand what she said after that?

      • I had to replay it several times and still miss a word or two but it’s something like this – “No. I cannot. Harriet – she’s in love with you. ….?…. You danced with her and have shown her kindness ………………something about farming …… and were on the verge of asking her if her affections were engaged”. Then he says, “..to Robert Martin, to Robert Martin…. I didn’t mind replaying it a few times!

      • I’m a bit late, but maybe you will get the notification. It comes in handy that I have watched the german dub, where you can understand the words much clearer. She is listing all the indications that had led Harriet to believe he has affections for her. The dance, the fact that he escorted her at Donwell and explained to her what running the Abbey entails with the tenants and farming and such, as if he were to prepare her for the role. Him almost asking if her affections were engaged. He explains that the latter was on behalf of Mr. Martin.

  4. I read Emma in 1989. Lovely Jane Austen doesn’t describe the looks of her characters very much so the Mr. Knightley of my imagination was of mid height and with brown hair, not unlike “my” Captain Wentworth! If I ever read it again I shall of course be seeing a blond Mr. Knightley with rather untidy hair. That’s what Autumn de Wilde’s done to me.

  5. I just love this Autumn de Wilde’s version of Emma! It’s so lovely and playful! And I have to admit that I fell in love with Mr. Knightley… Johnny Flynn plays the role so well indeed. I just love him! Big blue eyes, lovely messy hair, beautiful character… Emma’s and Mr. Knightley’s love story is so beautiful. Mr. Knightley tries to hide his feelings for so long and Emma notices in the end before the dance scene that she actually has feelings for him and loves him. I love the scene where Emma asks Mr. Knightley to dance and he can’t believe it first. Also the scene where Mr. Knightley thinks that Emma doesn’t have feelings for him and he is lying on the floor in Donwell Abbey. I’ve watched the movie quite many times already and I’ll watch it again many times, that’s for sure! I just love Johnny Flynn in this movie! <3

  6. Could anybody be so kind as to explain to me what I perceive to be a big plot hole. The way I interpreted it, it was obvious to both Mr. Knightley and Emma after their dance and the follow-up moment of him running after her and them rushing towards each other, that they are in love with each other. He must have sensed that about her and she about him, they were on the verge of falling into each other’s arms. But then the Harriet scene happens and suddenly, they just brood and ignore each other and it is never brought up again until the proposal scene. And here, they are suddenly unknowing of the other one’s affection. Is there a logical explanation for this sudden change that I am missing?


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