Thrift, thrift, Horatio! the funeral baked meats
Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.
, Act I, Scene II
Poor Alice. Her husband Bob has just died.
She's at the funeral, all weepy. Charlie, Bob's close friend, goes over to console her. They have a little discussion. They comfort
Naturally, doing this with a woman whose husband isn't even cold in his grave yet is considered rather disrespectful and improper to say the least. It suggests that:
- Alice didn't really love Bob all that much
- Charlie wasn't much of a friend
Occasionally it's given a less negative spin: Overcome with mutual grief, they turn to each other and because of their loneliness and emotional vulnerability it leads to other things
. But they'll still feel incredibly guilty about it, and other mourners who find out are going to be pretty disgusted.
As bad as this is, there are several sub-variants that make it even worse
The first is a classic murder motive. The second is a way of punishing
Charlie for betraying his friend (often he's the next target for the Black Widow
). The third is a lesson
to wives about the danger of a non-husband male friend offering comfort. While the last situation is the most common for the 3rd scenario listed above — expect a lot of angst and grief about having committed adultery without realizing it.
Contrast Romancing the Widow
, which is when an appropriate time of grieving has passed, and the widow is encouraged to move on with a new romance. See also Sex for Solace
or On The Rebound
See also Death of the Hypotenuse
, where Charlie had feelings for Alice before Bob died.
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Anime and Manga
- In Soul Eater, it's Franken Stein (of all people!). Not so much comforting a widow but instead a Christmas Cake (sometimes Played for Laughs, but NOT in this instance), especially in the manga, as Marie Mjolnir loses her New Old Flame just before they reconcile their relationship again... Err...comforting in a platonic sense, by the way.
- A significant moment for both for rather different reasons - Marie, because she's had feelings for Stein since they were in school and the BJ/madness thing complicated things somewhat, and Stein because it's the only example of him showing real empathy for another human being, aside from the odd nice gesture towards the students.
- In Saiyuki, Dokugakuji to his own mother. Squickily justified as it was to protect his younger half brother from being beaten to the point of death.
- Isao Tsujimura tried this in Detective Conan, with his friend Kenji Yamashiro and his wife Kimie. He also mixed it with The Uriah Gambit by using Yamashiro as a scapegoat for a big fraud, sending him to jail so he'd have a shot at Kimie, who was dangerously near to the Despair Event Horizon. Yamashiro died in prison, and Tsujimura and Kimie got married. However, it massively backfired years later, as Kimie learned the truth when Tsujimura's son Takayoshi brought a photo of his girlfriend Yukiko... Kimie and Yamashiro's long lost daughter (raised by her paternal family); she forced him confess... and later, she killed him.
- Ghost, with the guy who killed Swayze's character putting the moves on his girlfriend.
- Though Molly(the girlfriend) doesn't appear to feel that way about the murderer, even when she doesn't know he's the murderer.
- Wedding Crashers had a character who went to random people's funerals precisely to do this. One of the leads, who had previously made picking up women at Weddings into an art form, is fairly disgusted. This doesn't stop him from doing it once, though.
- Tommy. In the original Rock Opera, Tommy's father returns from war years after going missing and kills his wife's lover. In The Movie, the lover kills the father.
- A slight variation in Pearl Harbor. Evelyn is in love with Rafe, who then goes off to fight the Nazis. She learns that his plane was shot down, so she immediately falls in love with his best friend, Danny. When Rafe returns it's, um, awkward. It doesn't help that she's pregnant (But it DOES help that Danny gets killed by Japanese troops after they crash in China!)
- Summer of '42 — but in that case the widow (Dorothy) actually appears to need comforting, and as her husband was shot down over France, neither she nor Hermie can bear any complicity in his death.
- Made squickier in the book by the suggestion that, in her troubled emotional state, she actually convinces herself that Hermie is her dead husband. He scolds himself afterward for having taken advantage of her, however inadvertently.
- The Five Heartbeats has Version #3: Big Red has Jimmy killed (for threatening to expose his corrupt business practices) and then attends his funeral; when he tells Jimmy's widow that she "shouldn't be alone", she slaps him in the face.
- In Casino Royale (1967), Deborah Kerr plays a SMERSH agent impersonating M's widow - at M's ancestral home she enters the bedroom of Sir James Bond (David Niven), demanding to be comforted (and ruin his Celibate Hero image). When he politely declines, she takes it as an insult to her honor.
- Played with in the Ocean's 11 remake.
Danny: Phil Turrentine?
Danny: No shit, on the job?
Rusty: Skin cancer.
Danny: You send flowers?
Rusty: Dated his wife for a while.
- Sergeant Twining from Uncle Sam enjoys informing women that their husbands died overseas so he can take advantage of them while they grieve.
- Subverted, then tragically deconstructed in The Stoning of Soraya M. when Soraya goes to help a widower and his mentally-challenged son with house chores. Nothing happens, but her Genre Savvy husband uses this as an opportunity to build false testimony that lewd interactions had taken place.
- The Player
- The 2006 miniseries Blackbeard has this exchange after the titular character's mutiny:
Cpt. Hornigold: ...and I went to pay my respects to his(Captain Kidd's) widow.
Blackbeard: And how much respect did you pay her?
Cpt. Hornigold: Enough to keep a lonely widow warm on a cold November night.
- Lord of Illusions: Private detective Harry D'Amour strikes up a romance with the late Philip Swann's wife Dorothea only a few days after Swann's death and while Dorothea is still mourning over her husband's casket. D'Amour shacking up with his wife majorly pisses Swann off when he's revealed to have faked his on-stage death, and he nearly kills D'Amour.
- In A Brother's Price Jerin feels bad about his relief when he is told that the woman he loves is a widow - he doesn't want to be the one Comforting the Widow, rather he thinks he should feel sorry for her loss. He ends up comforting the widows ... though they need comfort not because they're sad their husband died - they aren't - but because their husband caused a lot of harm to the family.
- Deconstructed in Harry Potter, when Snape tries to get Voldemort to spare Lily because he loves her while not pleading for the lives of her husband and barely year old child, possibly in order to invoke the trope. To add insult to injury, Dumbledore realizes this and he's so pissed off that he angrily chews him out about it. But in the end Snape agrees to protect Harry after Lily is murdered.
- Gomez has sex with Claire in The Time Traveler's Wife after Henry dies. Still, she doesn't choose to be with him, and his own wife never finds out (thought she's known for years about his unrequited feelings for Claire).
- The story of the Woman of Ephesus in the Roman novel The Satyricon might count as the oldest one in the book- the seemingly virtuous widow was at her husband's tomb ready to starve herself to death, but after some comforting words from a centurion ends up having sex with him and offering her husband's corpse to be crucified after one of the corpses the soldier is overseeing is stolen.
- From "The Notebooks of Lazarus Long" in Robert A. Heinlein's novel Time Enough for Love:
"There is only one way to console a widow. But remember the risk."
- The Count of Monte Cristo. Fernand Mondego betrays his friend Edmond Dantes and had him sent to prison. The corrupt prosecutor tells Dantes's fiancee, Mercedes, that Edmond died attempting escape. Mercedes then marries Fernand and has a son. When Dantes escapes and assumes the identity of the Count, he is mad at Fernand for betraying him, the prosecutor for imprisoning him, and Mercedes for abandoning him.
- The 2002 film tries to make Mercedes more sympathetic by revealing that the only reason she married Fernand was because she was already pregnant with Edmund's child.
- Done by Renton in the book of Trainspotting. Complicated by the fact that the young lady in question is about eight months pregnant at the time, which results in some truly disturbing speculation on Renton's part.
- This trope is invoked from three different angles involving the same widow in Bujold's A Civil Campaign. After Tien Vorsoisson's death in an accident, every fellow that knows of Ekaterin Vorsoisson's existence drops by when she moves into her uncle's home. (Due to certain demographic quirks, Miles' generation is running over five men to four women among the upper social classes - any marriageable woman of Ekaterin's age without actual visible deformities is competed for hotly.) Miles Vorkosigan, who fell for her even before her husband's death in the last novel, tries to be subtle about it only to discover that covert ops tactics are not that readily applied to courtship. Then Miles ends up accused of having killed her husband so that he could court the widow - and due to certain events connected with Tien's death, less than twenty people in the entire Barrayaran Imperium have the security clearance to be allowed to even know that the evidence proving Miles' innocence exists, let alone be allowed to see it.
- Invoked in a Guy de Maupassant story generally translated as "The Graveyard Sisterhood" which features prostitutes dressed as widows so that they can be comforted by male mourners.
- In Tom Clancy's The Cardinal of the Kremlin, American physicist Alan Gregory is abducted by the KGB with the assistance of one of his colleagues, who hopes to be able to make a move on Gregory's fiancée once he's out of the way.
- Discussed and deliberately averted in the case of Wedge Antilles and Iella Wessiri of the X-Wing Series. Though he's around to console her when her husband died (the two had known each other for years and been working together at the time, so it's hardly unusual), he's very careful not to put any romantic pressure on her despite the fact that he is interested. He confesses some years later that he felt it would be "morbid, crude, opportunistic [and] Janson-like" to have mentioned it at the time.
- The short story Absent From Felicity, from the collection Somewhere Beneath Those Waves features a gay version: Fortinbras comes onto a grieving Horatio at Hamlet's grave— and nearly shoves him onto the headstone in his ardor.
- The Mirrorworld Series: Valiant shamelessly states his intention to employ strategy this with Clara.
- One of Ambrose Bierce's "Fantastic Fables":
A Widow weeping on her husband’s grave was approached by an Engaging Gentleman who, in a respectful manner, assured her that he had long entertained for her the most tender feelings.
“Wretch!” cried the Widow. “Leave me this instant! Is this a time to talk to me of love?”
“I assure you, madam, that I had not intended to disclose my affection,” the Engaging Gentleman humbly explained, “but the power of your beauty has overcome my discretion.”
“You should see me when I have not been crying,” said the Widow.
- Happens in Scrubs, where J.D. ends up having sex with his patient's widow, and comments "There are a lot of ways to grieve, but last time I checked, wheelbarrow style wasn't one". It borders on Romancing the Widow in this case, as the man had been in a coma for several years (after a car accident two weeks into their marriage). As "Tasty Coma Wife" puts it, she had already grieved over losing her husband, his actual death really just gave her some closure. This trope is more definitely in effect several episodes earlier when JD and the wife went on a date while the husband was actually still alive (but of course comatose). They have a good time together but JD backs out before anything physical happens because this trope makes him uncomfortable with the situation.
- This happened in a very odd episode of Boy Meets World where the cast was sent back into World War II thanks to Salem crossing over from Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
- The third variant has popped up multiple times on Law & Order.
- In "The Dead Wives Club," a woman is murdered who turns out to be the wife of a 9/11 firefighter and the widow of another. After 9/11 some surviving firefighters were assigned to help out the widows of the ones who died, and this led to this particular guy falling in love with her, divorcing his wife, and marrying her. His ex-wife was so traumatized by this chain of events that she killed the woman.
- JAG: In "Pilot Error", Harm spends time with the deceased Lt. Luke Pendry's family, having known them when he was still alive.
- Played with in The Unit. As part of a Secret Test of Character during a flashback, Bob is told that the Unit widows can ask for what they want- including sex with the married Bob. He gets out of the situation without sex.
- It's more technically "Comforting the Bereaved Mom", but Danny Messer does this in CSI: New York. He already has a girlfriend.
- The Last Enemy
- Murdoch Mysteries invokes this trope in one episode. As it happens, it was a case of Murder the Hypotenuse and the widow wasn't interested anyway.
- In Soap Burt was trying to seduce Mary while she was still married, when he accidentally murdered her husband (in self-defense) he continued his seduction - though he was in love with her the entire time and felt extremely guilty over the death of her husband; she felt it was the right thing to do as she didn't want to end up lonely and depressed, and knew Burt was a kind guy.
- There's Detective Donohue's seduction of Jessica. He had been hired to find her missing husband, Chester, and when he was mistaken for dead Donohue kept visiting and wouldn't relent. Of course, when Chester returns he's insulted that Jessica would "jump" into another man's arms, when the whole situation had troubled her a lot.
- In an episode of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, one of the "scenes from a hat" suggestions was something like "inappropriate times to hit on somebody." Wayne: "I'm terribly sorry about your loss, Mrs. Jenkins..."
- Rescue Me: Tommy sleeps with his dead brother's widow. And his dead cousin's widow.
- A variant occurs on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. After Glory drives Tara insane, she ends up having to spend a night in the hospital. Willow says that she doesn't think she can sleep without her. Anya's response:
- The UnSub in "The Longest Night" of Criminal Minds explains to the little girl he's abducted that he has "a widow to comfort". Of course, by "comfort", he means "rape".
- Discussed in the How I Met Your Mother episode "46 Minutes", when Ted, Robin, and Barney, after indulging in a long, drunken, terrible night full of mishaps due their depression over Marshall and Lily moving to Long Island, gloomily start predicting how Marshall and Lily might eventually stop seeing them altogether. Barney's imagination, of course, goes completely overboard:
- This causes Ted to snap out of his gloom and swear not to let their friendship with Marshall and Lily to dissolve, in order to prevent Barney's nightmare scenario from occurring (he was drunk at the time — it's the thought that counts).
- Highlander had a variant of this where Richie killed the SO of an immortal friend of Duncan's right after Duncan lost Tessa. Mac later meets with the woman to argue with her over her wanting Richie dead, but alcohol comes into play and they end up sleeping together.
- Later, it happened with Richie and another immortal's widow, at least until she found out Richie had killed her husband.
- In The Walking Dead, Shane kindled a romance with his best friend Rick's wife Lori when they thought Rick was killed in the early days of the Zombie Apocalypse. He also started to become a Parental Substitute to Rick's son Carl. Things get awkward when Rick shows up alive and well. Shane's frustration over losing his position as leader and his position in Lori and Carl's hearts simmers over the course of the series culminating in him trying to murder Rick in season 2. It doesn't end well for Shane.
- Homeland; at some point in the eight years Nicholas Brody was missing presumed dead, his friend Mike went from looking after his family to "comforting" his "widow". It's not clear how long it took, but they hadn't told the kids about it yet so it's presumably relatively recent.
- In Game of Thrones, Littlefinger tries this on Catelyn after her husband dies. She pulls a knife on him and tells him to get out, since he's the reason her husband is dead. To make it even more inappropriate, the reason he was meeting with her was to deliver her late husband's bones.
- The White Queen portrays the courtship of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville this way; in the midst of the Wars of the Roses, she petitions the king for her slain husband's lands to be restored to her and her sons. The two fall in Love at First Sight and when she resists the king's attempts to add her to his long list of mistresses, they get married in secret.
- The courtship of Richard of Gloucester and Lady Anne Neville applies as well, but not in the way portrayed by Shakespeare. After the defeat of Lancasters, Lady Anne Neville was a penniless ward of George of Clarence. Richard offered his help and his hand. They eloped and married in secret.
- The Decemberists describe a Comforting the Widow scenario in which a young party boy seduces the narrator's recently widowed mother and then wastes away her fortune before leaving her to die in The Mariner's Revenge Song.
- In the Scottish folksong Baron O' Brackley, thirty-plus raiders from a rival clan are outside stealing the Baron's cattle. His wife shames him into going out to face them alone. Cue Curb-Stomp Battle. In the next verse his wife is happily preparing to host the enemy leader.
Mythology and Religion
- This is basically what Penelope's suitors are trying to do in The Odyssey. Granted, some of them may have fooled themselves into thinking they were just Romancing the Widow initially, but not taking no for an answer even after ten years of courting and playing house guests all the time pushes it pretty firmly into this category. (Never mind that Odysseus turns out not to be dead after all...)
- In the most recent adaptation of Martin Guerre, Arnaud comes back from war to break the news to Martin's widow. The villagers somehow decide he's Martin (he was gone for seven years), and they have to play along with it so that she won't be forced to marry Guillaume. Over time, the expected course of events transpires. Trouble is, Martin's not dead.
- William Shakespeare does this a couple of times;
- In Richard III, Lady Anne knows that Richard killed Edward, and he still manages to win her over.
- Claudius and Gertrude in Hamlet, which involves the third (and possibly the second) sub-variants. The Mel Gibson and Kenneth Branagh film adaptations each offer additions to the Claudius/Gertrude dynamic, both hinting that they were in fact having an affair before the King's death (in particular, in Branagh's version, Hamlet looks much more like Claudius than he does his father).
- In Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Mrs. Lovett deliberately invokes this when she tells Sweeney that his wife is dead. The emotion is never there on his part, but she does get the "rumpled bedsheets" she was hoping for. Sweeney doesn't take it well when he finds out that she lied.
- It's a bit more drawn-out in Baldur's Gate II, but if a male protagonist has a relationship with Jaheira, it still seems to occur far too quickly after the death of Khalid, Jaheira's husband. In Throne of Bhaal, a wraith pretending to be Khalid and using Jaheira's own doubts against her accuses Jaheira of wanting Khalid out of the way all along so she could hook up with the protagonist, citing the haste in which she entered the new relationship as evidence.
- A dark variation in City of Heroes: In one Praetoria story arc, one PPD cop comments to another about comforting a journalist's girlfriend. While said journalist lies dying at his feet. Guess who's responsible...
- The romance with Aribeth in Neverwinter Nights might count, due to Fenthick's Plotline Death at the end of the first chapter.
- In Snatcher, Gillian Seed (who is by the way married) can try to persuade the 18 (14 in the original Japanese version!) year old daughter of a dead teammate to let him try to comfort her. Metal Gear finds this very objectionable, and yells at Gillian to stop it. The daughter can get angry enough to throw Gillian out of the house, preventing him from returning for a while.
- Campbell says this was how he found his second wife in Metal Gear Solid 4 - her husband had disappeared and he 'comforted' her. It might have been the case in a very warped way, but the marriage was actually a sham intended to protect her and her son from the Patriots.
- Subversion or related trope: From The Simpsons, when Maude dies, Moe confesses his undying love/lust for her to Ned, with somewhat predictable results. Moe also tries to do this to Marge whenever Homer appears to have died or disappeared.
- This is merged with the Hamlet example above when The Simpsons do their own version of the play. I guess Moe just fits the "Claudius" role perfectly.
- And done again on a "three short stories" episode, this time set on the voyage of the Mayflower.
- And again when retelling The Count of Monte Cristo.
- This is how Fry accidentally managed to survive a temporal paradox after he accidentally went back in time and accidentally killed the man he thought was his grandfather in Futurama.
- Ooohhh, a lesson in not changing history from Mr. "I'm my own grandpa!"
- Later repeated in the second movie with Zapp Branigan and Amy, after Kif is killed, thanks to Zapp's incompetence. Gets kinda awkward when he inevitably gets better.
- The Family Guy episode "Perfect Castaway" has the family mistakenly believing that Peter has died at sea. Upon his return, he finds that Lois has married Brian. Subverted in that they never actually consummate the marriage before Peter's return (much to Brian's frustration).