3. Henry Crawford (Alessandro Nivola) - Mansfield Park
Just to warn you in case you haven't read or watched Mansfield Park - there will probably be some spoilers in this post.
Jane Austen created some of the most truly good, honourable, gentlemanly heroes in literature, but she generally didn't write too many charming, conflicted villains - she was too sensible and too realistic for that. Her scoundrels are almost always - well, just plain scoundrels! No romantic illusions here! Mr. Elliot, Mr. Wickham, Frank Churchill, John Thorpe. . . There are two great exceptions, however - John Willoughby and Henry Crawford. Henry Crawford has always been my favourite Jane Austen villain/anti-hero.
But why? Probably because he seemed so close to truly reforming/repenting. Or maybe that was just my romantic fancy, as a 14-year-old girl reading the book for the first time. I loved Henry and Fanny as a couple. They make a much more intriguing combination than Edmund and Fanny, who are arguably the most boring couple in the Austen canon. I desperately wanted Henry to get his act together and mend his ways, so that he could be truly worthy of Fanny. Of course, in the end, he stumbles and throws away every chance of future happiness with Fanny. Stupid, stupid Henry.
Could he have been satisfied with the conquest of one amiable woman’s affections, could he have found sufficient exultation in overcoming the reluctance, in working himself into the esteem and tenderness of Fanny Price, there would have been every probability of success and felicity for him. His affection had already done something. Her influence over him had already given him some influence over her. Would he have deserved more, there can be no doubt that more would have been obtained. . . Would he have persevered, and uprightly, Fanny must have been his reward, and a reward very voluntarily bestowed. . .
-Mansfield Park, Chap. XXXXVIII
Joseph Beattie as Henry Crawford in Mansfield Park 2007
In terms of on-screen Henrys - I thought Alessandro Nivola's performance (MP 1999) was the most memorable. Joseph Beattie in the 2007 adaptation was also okay. The Henry in the 1983 adaptation, however, came across as a snivelling, rodent-like idiot, with the none of the necessary charm or charisma.
Your thoughts on Henry Crawford, and Mansfield Park? Did you want Henry and Fanny to end up together, or were you on "Team Edmund"?
Which is your favourite screen adaptation of Mansfield Park? Your favourite Henry Crawford?
Do you have a favourite Austen villain?
Also, whilst preparing this post, I came across this comparison of Henry Crawford's and Fizwilliam Darcy's characters at Pemberley.com. Interesting. Darcy isn't perfect, either, but his strength of character shows up all the better when compared against Crawford's lack of resolve and self-control. Also, come to think of it, Mansfield Park could almost be seen as a subverted form of P&P. . . but that's a whole other post altogether.