Portrayed by: Luke Thompson
Book | Show: Julia Quinn’s An Offer from a Gentleman and Netflix’s Bridgerton
Mr. Bridgerton. Number two. Benedict. The importance of saying his name is crucial to his arc and thus crucial to understanding just how layered the character actually is. While this analysis will start with the canon that has been established in the books, we’ll also be covering Netflix’s TV series so beware of spoilers if you’ve yet to watch. Julia Quinn’s books are fantastic, and she is especially great at establishing tone and character, but with Benedict Bridgerton particularly, it’s easier to be frustrated with him than not. And frankly, no one wants to pick up a book again if elements within made them angry.
Benedict Bridgerton is deeply flawed, as all men during the time if we are being honest, but once his motives become clear, his actions are easier to understand. Is that an excuse? Absolutely not, nothing can ever be truly excused, but things can be understood and part of establishing a complex character involves giving them growth. Benedict Bridgerton is complex, greatly privileged, and lost.
Maybe it’s my personal soft spot for the quiet ones. The ones who can be forgotten about at times. The ones who have all sorts of attention but never the kind that’s enriching. The ones are always in between. The artists, the creative people that are almost always searching for something more…Benedict’s characterization dives into the indescribable turmoil of having a creative spirit and not pursuing it. The belief that perhaps if people knew what you really loved, they’d see you differently. Artists were renowned and respected, sure–but from the beginning of time, pursuit of the arts was often met with criticism. There will always be people in the world that deem writers, artists, actors as lazy–such career choices will be met with “but that’s not a real job.” It’s 2020 and we’ve all heard it. (If I had a dollar for every time I heard “but what are you going to do with a degree in literature?” I wouldn’t need to work a day in my life.) And especially amongst a well respected family with a title, the fear Benedict carries is easy to understand.
The book series gives us such tiny moments that allude to who Benedict really is, but blink and you’ll miss it when he isn’t the central character. Blink and you’ll miss it when he screws up so stupidly, it’s easy to disregard just how little he understands of his own privilege and thus his own inner demons. But let’s be frank for a moment, it’s 2020 and people still don’t understand their privilege, to expect a 19th century man to do so when that isn’t a prime topic of conversation is somewhat asking too much. However, he does. It’s a slow progression, but it’s one that happens over time and ultimately contributes to the fact that he never fully finds his place in high society. And he was never meant to.
Benedict is always searching, always wondering, but his own misguided fears of disappointing his family and thereby, never sharing his art with them leaves the book version of his character with his own inner frustrations. But through the glimpses we get, Benedict is the brother who’s often ready to listen—the reasonable one. (When his own heart and body aren’t in question that is.) Benedict being the one to insist that Daphne’s side is heard at the duel is one example: “She deserves her say” (Chapter 9). In his book, An Offer from a Gentleman, there are clear signs of how well he knows his sisters, especially Eloise. “I don’t think Eloise wants to marry,” (Chapter 13). To think of how important this distinction is given the TV series and who Eloise is today is a prominent detail alluding to how aware he is when he’s quiet. And there’s a little glimpse of the promise he made to Hyacinth to help with her arithmetic. When Benedict isn’t in his own head, he’s fully with his family. He might not have the responsibilities Anthony does and he might not be as outgoing or as charming as Colin, but Benedict Bridgerton tries. Which might just be the thing that goes most unnoticed.
Anthony and Benedict are closer in age; therefore, naturally close to each other but there’s still an issue within the entire family where the men especially, don’t share their traumas with each other. No one knows about Anthony’s fear of death and no one knows about Benedict’s interest in art. But they also don’t know that consistently being number two can be damaging to a person’s confidence, especially when you’re essentially the middle child. Which between ABC, that would be Benedict. It’s no excuse, but it’s reason. While Anthony’s demons are stemmed from his responsibilities as the viscount, Benedict’s are stemmed from what’s almost like an invisibility. When Sophie sees Benedict as he is, not as a Bridgerton first, it opens up the possibility for him to really look into himself as well.
That’s why sharing his art with Sophie, not mystery girl in silver feels right. That’s why, in spite of being an idiot who cannot understand the word “no,” he can’t stop pursuing her. No one’s really seem him as he is, and finding himself in her soul in more ways than one, brought him to life. Additionally, no one has seen the real Sophie Beckett either and when they see the true versions of each other, as dramatic as it sounds, all is well with their souls.
The thing with Benedict is that in the end, he finally gets it. He knows he shouldn’t have pressed the mistress request, and he knows that it was wrong of him to ask for something that he would’ve also felt uncomfortable giving if the roles were reversed. “I would die before sharing you. How could I ask you to do the same?” In the book, Benedict hears Sophie, but he’s not really listening, and that’s derived entirely from both his desperation to be with her, and the sincere belief that he’s doing something good for her. He didn’t save her from Cavender’s to risk something of the sort happening again and thus, when he coerces her to work for his mother, it’s stemmed from the genuine belief that it’ll be better for her than any other route. And frankly, it is. If she had to work for any family as a lady’s maid, no one treats theirs better than the Bridgertons do—especially under Violet’s care.
Personal hot take, Sophie should have absolutely made him grovel more in the end. But we can’t blame her, she’d just been in prison, there’s a lot going on in her own head, however, we know Benedict would have done so. Because in the end, we know that there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for, societal rules be dammed, she is his everything, and that’s the very essence of his character—a man who sees people as they are and accepts them as they are.
Thus far, the way the TV series has handled his character is nothing short of perfect. This is the Benedict I’d write an entire defense article for because this is the man who’s written between the lines throughout the book series. It’s going to be incredibly rewarding then to see how the series handles his pursuit of Sophie because we already know he isn’t interested in the ton. Benedict might meet Sophie at a ball, but she isn’t the average debutant by then—she’s a woman who knows the value of work. And the Benedict Bridgerton we know today is a man who values people who work for a living. His arc is fantastic, giving him the opportunity to actually practice art with a renowned artist (Henry Granville) brings more realism to the fact that his work will one day hang in galleries. This backstory is incredibly enriching to who he is and how much his character will be shaped. He’s got a lot to learn and I can’t wait to watch it unfold.
Benedict is a Bridgerton and while they each value family tremendously, no matter how similar, no two are the same. The series’ decision to showcase just how frustrating the conventional life of titled people in society is for Benedict does a remarkable job of illuminating what really matters for him—being good at something that requires work. Benedict’s interests don’t lie in balls and the opera, but art houses and the countryside. And the series showcasing that there’s nothing wrong with this does a beautiful job of paying homage to how creative people often work through their desires. Sometimes it’s messy. Sometimes it’s complicated. Sometimes it’s frustrating. But it always leads towards something great when you continue fighting for the things you want. Benedict doesn’t care where someone comes from or what they do to get by.
Wherever the series goes with Benedict’s character, it’s a clear set up of the fact that this man’s marriage will look different than the rest of his siblings. He is a man who tries to understand and a man who often refrains from judgement, for even when he doesn’t know, he’d rather find out for himself. Benedict isn’t without flaws, but he’s open and honorable. He’s kind but quick to critique at times. And as called out appropriately by Henry Granville, sometimes he’s all talk. But really, who isn’t? This makes him that much more relatable because intent matters—fears play a part in people’s actions, and while he doesn’t care to judge, the ton does. Therefore, as a Bridgerton, the family’s name lingers throughout forcing them to carry themselves a certain way, both with love and fear. They don’t always want to, but they do. And perhaps with Benedict, his journey will require looking more into himself, who he is, what he wants, who he wants, and most importantly why.
The soul of an artist is always longing for something more, and in the books, that longing is fulfilled through his pursuit of art, and his love for Sophie. When he falls in love with her, quickly and beyond anything he’s ever felt, it makes sense for him. it makes sense because she’s what he had been searching for all along but never really believed he could find. And she’s the one he first begins sharing his work with. While the series has given his family the opportunity to see him more, we know that it’s different with love. The choice to not only share his life with someone, but to return the feeling through transparency and a safe place is where his heart’s often been geared towards.
On a final note, his relationship with Eloise alone signifies the fact that this is a man who’s willing to hear people out. If any of her other brothers caught her smoking, they wouldn’t join, they’d likely chastise instead, but none of this matters to Benedict as much as meaningful conversations and time well spent. However, he spends that time, as long as it’s somehow fulfilling is everything to this longing soul. When he states that she’d have his full support and admiration if she were Whistledown, he means it. There’s nothing Benedict Bridgerton wouldn’t do for his brothers and sisters, and there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for his mother even while he grumbles through it. And sometimes, he isn’t always going to be the nicest person—but where his intentions are concerned, they’re honorable. Benedict doesn’t and would never purposely harm someone unless he was defending someone else.
The way the series has handled the small but crucial detail of Benedict being someone who listens is ultimately promising of how his story will play out. Luke Thompson’s mannerisms as Benedict are at present astounding, his physicality and the sincerity he’s already bringing to the character are a considerable exhibition of just how much is within Benedict’s. It’s number two’s time to live his life, to have fun–to be as he chooses, but that number two’s name is important, and one day, when it’s said with profound emphasis, all of this will come full circle beautifully. The saturation in his complexities are so transparent–wherever writers choose to take his arc, and the ways in which Thompson will bring Benedict’s layers to life, we’re certain it’ll be a treat. Plus, who knows, at this rate, we might even come back to add to this. (Likely will, let’s be real, it’s not a might.)
What are your thoughts on Benedict Bridgerton? Are there parts of him you’ve noticed that we haven’t?