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KS3/4 English: Emma (1996)

Explore Austen's take on social interaction between the upper classes

Main image of KS3/4 English: Emma (1996)
AuthorJessica Hardiman
TopicJane Austen's Emma
Key Words Austen, Emma, picnic, Box Hill, Emma, Miss Bates, Mrs. Elton, Mr. Knightley, Mrs. Elton
Show full lesson spec

An insight into 18th century social customs and hierarchy in an extract from Jane Austen's popular Emma.

This lesson idea uses the film to focus students on analysing Austen's social commentary, and presentation of social standing and interaction. The lesson also develops this by asking students to compare Austen's characterisation with the director's representation of this on screen. Students should feel more confident at inferring from textual evidence by the end of the lesson, and (importantly) inferring about the social background to the novel.

Lesson Objective

  • To develop a number of pieces of (media) textual evidence into a cogent argument
  • To produce a comparative analysis of written and cinematic characterisation


Students should be given a list of the characters that feature in the episode (e.g. Miss Bates, Mr Knightley and so on). Students are asked to rank the character in order of their social hierarchy and to write down a sentence explaining their reasoning for choosing the highest-ranked person and the person they ranked the lowest.

Students then feed back their ideas to one another and give their reasons. This should give the students a clear idea of the social standing of the characters, and will allow them to engage in the rest of the lesson.


Main Attraction

This lesson assumes that the students have already read chapter 43 of Emma. If necessary the reading of this chapter could be substituted for the suggested starter.

Introduce the students to the social scenarios that they have so far witnessed in Austen's text, and discuss with them the significance of such events (e.g. for making social connections, and marriage).

The students are asked to make a spidergram, working on one of the following focuses: noting down evidence that the director gives that:

  1. there is a difference between the social standing of the characters. The students should write down the names of specific characters and how they feel the director has shown that they are of a particular social type
  2. the characters are arranged on screen for a certain purpose (this would suit brighter students as the students have to identify both what the arrangement is and why this has been chosen)
  3. the setting is important in some way (is it ironic that the assembled party are at a picnic and why, if so?) (again this would suit more able students who understand what irony is and can identify irony in the scene and discuss it).

The students feed back their ideas. If the students are all particularly bright, they could be shown the extract three times and note down their ideas for each choice. Otherwise, the students should feedback and give one another notes to make three complete spidergrams, one for each of the key focuses.


End Credits

The students should write up one of the spidergrams into a paragraph in which they analyse the choices the director made in this extract, and the reasons behind these choices

The students analyse these choices in the light of Austen's text, discussing their views on how effectively the director portrayed the key ideas and events of the chapter on screen. If time allows, the students should read out their discussions to one another, and assess how well they used evidence to support their ideas.


External Links

Video Clips
1. The picnic (4:05)
Downloadable Teaching Resources

Related Films and TV programmes

Thumbnail image of Jane Austen's Emma (1996)Jane Austen's Emma (1996)

Read more about this programme

See also

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Thumbnail image of KS3/4 English: Sense and Sensibility (1981)KS3/4 English: Sense and Sensibility (1981)

Comparing descriptive language with descriptive techniques in film

Thumbnail image of Jane Austen on TelevisionJane Austen on Television

TV's takes on English literature's most perceptive and subtle satirist

Thumbnail image of TV Literary AdaptationTV Literary Adaptation

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