Can Bridgerton Teach Us How to Live?

A Historian Finds Classical Resonance, and Maybe Even Useful Philosophy, Beneath the Elaborate Costumes and Melodrama

Everything is broken,” repeated the chorus of a Bob Dylan song from his 1989 album Oh Mercy—strings (guitar, presumably), heads, hearts, vows, laws, and idols. The nation suffered from social and spiritual crisis: family breakups, community breakdowns; ecological disaster, school shootings; suicides, addictions. Private self-interest flooded the public realm. Corporate greed bombed us back to the Gilded Age. The glitz of the super-rich hid the cost to jobs, democracy, and well-being.

But if things seemed broken then—before 9/11, before the pandemic, before January 6th—what does that make things now? Is …