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The Comic Relief

Probably my favorite movie quote ever.
What is a Jane Austen novel without the secondary characters who say the most outrageous things and keep us laughing constantly?

I have many favorite secondary characters in Jane Austen; in my opinion, they are often the ones who steal the show with their odd ways and awkward situations.

Two men in particular have a special place in my heart for their nonsensical ways.

The first is dear Mr. Woodhouse, Emma's father in Emma. He is such a kind and caring soul; he only wants what is best for his two beloved girls. However, that does mean that he goes over the top in trying to protect them from the world. He is also a hypochondriac and very irrational about health in general.

My favorite Mr. Woodhouse quotes:
"His own stomach could bear nothing rich, and he could never believe other people to be different from himself. What was unwholesome to him, he regarded as unfit for any body; and he had, therefore, earnestly tried to dissuade them from having any wedding-cake at all, and when that proved vain, as earnestly tried to prevent any body's eating it. He had been at the pains of consulting Mr. Perry, the apothecary, on the subject. Mr. Perry was an intelligent, gentlemanlike man, whose frequent visits were one of the comforts of Mr. Woodhouse's life; and, upon being applied to, he could not but acknowledge, (though it seemed rather against the bias of inclination,) that wedding-cake might certainly disagree with many -- perhaps with most people, unless taken moderately. With such an opinion, in confirmation of his own, Mr. Woodhouse hoped to influence every visitor of the new-married pair; but still the cake was eaten; and there was no rest for his benevolent nerves till it was all gone."
"You must wrap up warm, Emma, in case some of the young dancers do something remarkably reprehensible, like opening a window." 

Yes, I know that quote is from the movie, but I think it perfectly wraps up his character in one quote. It couldn't be more fitting for Mr. Woodhouse.

Next we have Mr. Collins, of Pride and Prejudice fame.
Oh Mr. Collins. I don't enjoy him as a person, but he is so irrational and ridiculous that I can't help loving him for all of the stupid things he does and says. It's a little bit like watching a car wreck. He's just so terribly awkward and stuck on himself, which is a lethal combination. 
Poor, silly, stupid Charlotte Lucas. I'll always feel for her. But then again, she did do it to herself. She went in with her eyes open. 

Here is my compilation of the best Collins quotes:
"Mr. Collins was not a sensible man, and the deficiency of nature had been but little assisted by education or society."
“Almost as soon as I entered the house, I singled you (Elizabeth) out as the companion of my future life.”
"It is usual with young ladies to reject the addresses of the man whom they secretly mean to accept, when he first applies for their favour; and that sometimes the refusal is repeated a second or even a third time. I am therefore by no means discouraged by what you have just said, and shall hope to lead you to the altar ere long.''
"They (compliments) arise chiefly from what is passing at the time, and though I sometimes amuse myself with suggesting and arranging such little elegant compliments as may be adapted to ordinary occasions, I always wish to give them as unstudied an air as possible.''

And here are some Mr. Collins pictures that I found on the internet while writing this post. You're welcome, gentle readers.

Are there any other comic secondary characters who I should add to this list? Who are your favorites? What characteristics make up an effective and funny secondary character? 


  1. Although I have not read any of the books, these characters sound amusing in their own ways. I have, however, heard about the silliness of Mr. Collins thanks to memes like you have in your blog. He sounds ridiculous but hilarious because of it.

  2. I think a good secondary character is a difficult thing to write into a story. As a writer, I like to focus on the meat of the story, and if I try and create something like comic relief, I usually end up on some kind of a bunny trail. Regardless, I think including one of these characters is very important, especially in intense or overly emotional pieces, because that's how it is in real life. No one's life is void entirely of some type of comic relief. I think the best ones have strong personalities, and quirks that are innate to them. In fact, I can think of some comic relief characters in my own life!

  3. I have not read any of these books, but I did enjoy reading about these characters. I liked learning about them and their roles of comedy as a secondary character.

  4. I am also a Mr. Collins fan.Those characters are absolutely essential in any good story! Not only for entertainment, but for a change in pace and mindset in comparison to the main character.

  5. I'm glad that comic relief is a sort of timeless thing. I'm just imagining her sitting there thinking, "Welp, this scene got too serious, time to insert some jokes!"


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