Portrayed by: Regé-Jean Page
Book | Show: Julia Quinn’s The Duke and I and Netflix’s Bridgerton
Simon Basset. Duke of Hastings. Everyone and their mother’s latest obsession—rightly so as Regé-Jean Page’s enticing performances have made him one of the most memorable characters of the year. Bridgerton characters are all so flushed out, so extraordinarily balanced and complex that they are an absolute delight to analyze.
Simon Basset is a rake, but Simon Basset is also a damn good man, which is largely why his character is so fascinating and why I’ve decided to take this character deep dive on through literary analysis in order to talk about Foucault’s panopticon theory. Season one of Bridgerton focuses heavily on Daphne Bridgerton and Simon Basset, giving each of the characters the room to not only find themselves but to grow in their love.
Simon’s character is so incredibly complex and while these stories are based on romance novels, so often real, human traumas are explored, too and that is certainly the case with Simon. It is one thing to grow up abandoned, it is another knowing exactly why you were not wanted. And it does not take a genius to figure out the fact that because of his father’s hatred and rejection, Simon grew up believing that not only is he not worthy of love, but that people are not deserving it either.
And for years the late Duke of Hastings loomed over him like a panopticon, haunting his every move and every decision. Simon could do nothing without remembering, without being fully aware of the fact that his father did not want him because of a speech impediment. His father did not want him simply because he was not the perfect son. Thus, the promise to never to sire an heir is his way of taking control—it’s his way of being the watchful eye after years of being the prisoner. But where does that take him and what does that do to his character when his very own choices are the reason he is robbed of joy this time around?
It is part of the reason why Simon is such a complex character because while it is easy to be frustrated with his actions from the outside looking in, it is also incredibly easy to understand why he does it. It is not easy being vulnerable when you are a grown adult who has lived through trauma. It is not easy being vulnerable when the one time you were, you were shot down in the cruelest of ways.
And no matter how hard people try, in these cases, until you choose to put one foot forward and take the risks, it is not always easy to get past the trauma. Thus, we get the series exploring this trauma, even if we wish they did more of it by placing people in his path who will fight for his happiness. In our full episode review for Bridgerton’s “Shock and Delight” we discuss the importance of belief and how it nurtures someone towards growth. And for Simon Basset, that person was Lady Danbury.
This is an important episode for Simon and Lady Danbury. It’s an important episode for surrogate mothers and what it means to believe in someone. We write about belief on Marvelous Geeks a lot, and we do so because it’s crucial to bringing out the best in people. Lady Danbury’s belief in Simon is a big deal—the choice to see him as the polar opposite of how his father perceived him contributed vastly to Simon’s growth as a man. And what a powerful scene that moment between the two in flashbacks was.
Simon Basset is worthy. There is no denying just how compelling each of his entrances into a room are, and it’s not due solely to Regé-Jean Page’s ridiculously good looks.
It’s the way Simon walks. It’s the way he talks. And it’s the way he carries himself as a man with colossal armor surrounding him. It’s the way he is good even when he doesn’t want to be, and it’s the way he’s adamant on bad men paying for their crimes. It’s the way he tries to control everything the same way he learned to control his speech impediment, and it’s the way he appears to be trying to keep it all together even when he is living through turmoil in his own head.
It is Lady Danbury’s belief in Simon that not only helped him overcome his fears, but taught him, that there is still good left in this world. There are still people who are willing to help even when one’s own father wishes he were dead. Simon Basset might make a vow to his father that he will never marry, but we get it–who wouldn’t when your last name is tainted by such a filthy display of unkindness?
And thus, Lady Danbury’s belief in Simon to a degree, inspires his belief in Daphne–it inspires his character. Without the panopticon that was his father, slowly, but surely Simon’s mindset focuses on other people. […] Simon’s belief in Daphne, in her spirit, and in her heart, is a direct result of the belief that was instilled in him by Lady Danbury’s love. It is easy to appreciate the fact that he made the conscious decision to tell her that she wasn’t wrong in standing up for herself to Berbrooke.”
And thus, knowing all this, we also know that Lady Danbury’s belief in Simon could not be the only thing—he had to choose himself as well. He needed to choose love and he needed to choose to move forward with Daphne, putting everything he has into fighting the kind of panopticon his father’s memory had become for him even after he passed. Simon Basset had to choose that he was worthy of being loved by Daphne as much as he loves and respects her, but coming to that choice wasn’t easy.
In the process, we saw him end things with Daphne before they even began, we watched him choose to duel instead of marrying her, and then we watched him lie to her about the fact that he cannot have children instead of the fact that he will not. We watched him mess up and we watched his trauma slowly and consistently unfold in front of us. If this weren’t a series set in 19th-century where mental health isn’t a topic of discussion, I imagine we would get more of the difficulty in all this being brought to life, but alas, it is not. And thus, sometimes things get glossed over. (At least there is fan fiction right to explore the little details?)
That is not to say however that love does not have the power to do great things because that is the purpose of these books and this show—love can do great things. To go from being unloved and unwanted to deeply cared for by a woman and her large family could do a number on a man. No, it will not be easy—Simon will likely harbor doubt from time to time, but every decision he has made was a direct result of the love he did not receive as a child, and inadvertently later on, how loved he is as an adult.
That is where a large part of his strength comes from, which Page delivered masterfully throughout the season and it allowed the audience to see that what is perhaps even harder than reliving through his trauma every day is losing Daphne. In the end, it becomes apparent that he loves his wife more than he hates his father. In the end, he is no longer a prisoner of the panopticon and he hasn’t embraced to unconsciously become one either.
But as a man, and as a character, Simon is also incredibly proud—understandable as so often when people experience the kind of abandonment he did, you become your own caretaker. It’s up to you to guard your heart, but what the finale, “After the Rain” reminds us of, is the fact that people cannot achieve anything alone, and through Simon’s arc, much like most characters, this detail is illuminated gorgeously.
People need to be reminded that they are loved, supported, and believed in. If Lady Danbury had not pushed and believed in Simon, he likely would never have believed in himself. No one can achieve anything on their own and though taking away his agency by reading the letters isn’t our cup of tea per se, but the final conversation Daphne has with Simon is the one we’ll cheer about for a long time. This was also a fantastic scene between Lady Danbury and Daphne in not only sharing their love for Simon, but understanding the man they both care about a little more. Daphne doesn’t have a mother-in-law, she has Lady Danbury, and while she can be fun at soirees, she could also be vulnerable around her–teaching her what’s important when need be, and this is a small detail, but it’s one we all adore here.
It’s this conversation with Lady Danbury that ultimately prompts Daphne to step back a bit—there’s nothing more she can do at this moment other than give him the space to make the decision to be her husband instead. It’s all on him. And Lady Danbury has a similar conversation with Simon, too reiterating the fact that his pride will cost him everything and leave him with nothing. There’s nothing better than the two of them in a scene–thus, a statement like this coming from someone like Lady Danbury is incredibly important for him to hear.
Simon has known devotion. He knows that Lady Danbury cares about him and always will, but he has never known or believed that someone else could possibly love him for all that he is—stubbornness included. He believes every word that comes out of Daphne’s mouth because every word is good and sincere—every word is coming from the most genuine place. He knows (even if he isn’t sure how to handle it) that every word coming from Daphne is the very picture of devotion. It’s a love he feels, too and it’s a love he understands. And though presumably hours pass before he finally meets her inside, when he walks in, the glowing transparency coupled with vulnerability is everything we could have asked for.
He tells her that he doesn’t know how to be the man that she deserves. He doesn’t know how to share himself completely with someone else. And Daphne’s reply is just right—you stay. “You stay and we get through it together.” Because that’s what love is. It is choosing somebody every single day even when it’s hard to. It’s choosing someone every single day even when you don’t know what you’re doing. It’s choosing to let your walls down even when it’s hard. It’s choosing to risk heartache for the sake of adoration. It’s choosing to put someone else’s desires above your own. It’s choosing to believe in love and to believe that the person who stands before you is worthy of every ounce of you–as you are of them.
And in deciding to adopt the Bridgerton alphabetical order of naming their children, Simon chose to accept that he belongs somewhere. He’s no longer an outlier, no longer a jaded rake with imperfections unworthy of love, but a man with a family to adore, a man with a place to call his own, and a man who’s worthy, in every way, because he chose to get there—he chose to fight past the demons that tried to bring him down. He chose to put his pride aside and win the battle against his father by not letting him take away his happiness, and inadvertently, Daphne’s—the woman who sees him for all that he is and loves him through it all.
Simon Basset is imperfect, every single one of these characters are, but what they are here to highlight is that everyone’s story is worthy of being told and everyone’s story is beautiful. Trauma can be overcome, however long it takes, and having people who love and believe in you can be a beautiful thing. And even if sometimes it isn’t, even trauma still lingers–having people by your side matters because accepting help is a form of strength.
Simon Basset is good and kind, but Simon is also stubborn, and these very complexities make him the duke we all adore. And while Simon might not have been perfect, Regé-Jean Page’s performances were unmatched in bringing him to life perfectly.
For more Bridgerton Character Deep Dives: Check out Daphne Bridgerton, Anthony Bridgerton, Benedict Bridgerton, and Penelope Featherington. In due time, there will be one for everybody, but some in later seasons.
I missed this when it was originally posted and I just wanted to commend this outstanding exploration of Simon Basset and the way he is brought to life by Rege-Jean Page. I have loved the character since the book was originally published. It was a unique characterization for a romance novel and for that reason, The Duke and I remains my favorite in the series. Thank you for the high quality analysis of the characters and the storytelling choices in the series adaptation.