There are some of us who have enjoyed Masterpiece Theatre's Downton Abbey. The characters are rich. They are so well developed and so beloved, that I have taken a stab at identifying them according
to their redemptive gifts. The following are some of my conclusion, although they may sound like negative characteristics at times, but often that is the way we can recognize a particular redemptive gift. A character may still be in a negative
position of living the potential of a gift.
if you watch Downton and see the characters in action, you will know that the characters become a favorite because
of their complexity. As the seasons have gone by, we have watched the characters in joy and sorrow, and they have become believable to us in their responses to grief, and loss, and joy and hope.
Prophet: With so large a cast, there are several.
The first is Lady Mary. She is plain spoken, often cold and emotionless, risk taking, sometimes impulsive and
unusually decisive. When Lady Edith set fire to her bedroom by leaving a candle burning and going to sleep, Lady Mary has no patience at all with her, or mercy. She says "Edith decided to burn down the Abbey" in her most dry and arrogant
way. She never acts or speaks because she is concerned about another's feelings, and she is known for acting superior. She has no sympathy for Edith, in fact, she judges her believing that she brings everything tragedy upon herself, while
Lady Mary has suffered her share of tragedy, that she would never think she brought upon herself.
She has high regard for Tom, while encouraging him to find his own way and not feel indebted to the
Crawleys. Lady Mary either likes the others or dislikes them, and they always know where they stand with her. She meddles out of principle to insure that things are as they should be. She is a fixer, with the very best of intentions to keep
You may also remember that it was Lady Mary who viisted the jazz musician and discouraged his relationship with Lady Rose. She helped him
see the futility of the relationship and Rose's quest for "fun" for what it was. Really, she was not doing this out of sympathy for either character, but her desire to fix whatever needing fixing for the sake of the Crawleys, and her determination and
belief that she could do it. She never doubts herself or her motives.
She didn't like Matthew at all at first, refused to marry him, although it was the perfect decision for being able to have Downton go to
her future children, but then along the way, changed her mind. This is also a prophet characteristic to be able to turn and go in the opposite direction with as much passion as she did when she was traveling the opposite way. She never second
guesses herself once her mind is made up. She was as vehement when she despised Matthew as when she loved him.
She is the only one who can stand up to the Dowager grandmother and challenge her and win. Everyone
cowers in front of the Dowager, except Mary.
She was filled with self pity for a season after Matthew's death, but one day, determination brought her out and she put the tragedy aside. That is
a key for the prophet. They may be in a pit of despair one day, but they can rally and once again lead the charge.
It was finding the purpose of managing the estate which Tom suggested to her,
that caused her to rally: something a woman had never participated in, something that shocked the Earl, but she didn't bat an eye or pretend to notice his horror when she entered the room full of men to take her place. Her authority and idenitity
are not things she looks to others to grant. The purpose itself was enough to make her rise from the ashes.
Once she told her mother, Lady Cora, "That is because you are an American, and I am not." It
was a harsh declaration about her way of looking at things, which she meant to say was correct, as it was British, and that her mother's view was compromised by her place of birth.
When she speaks,
there is a formality, conviction, arrogance, and certainity. She may sound unlikeable at this point, but she is not. She has a heart, which she protects differently than the other characters. We love her because we understand her pain, her
determination, and we admire her decisiveness and conviction. We know that she is deeply passionate, and so we forgive her when she pulls ranks or acts like she knows everything. We admire her forthrightness and her convictions, and we recognize
that she is far more caring and emotional than she lets anyone see.
Downstairs, I think it is Miss Hughes who
is a redemptive prophet. She is no nonsense, plain spoken, and the only one that is allowed to tell Mr. Carson the truth. She is the only person who has made him see things in a different way, and her opinion matters to him.
She values truth over making others feel safe, and often says what she thinks quicky and decisively. But her truth comes not as a set of legalistic rules, but insightful. In other words, she knows what the
truth is in a matter, almost intuiitively. She fights to protect Bates, because she knows he is a good man who loves his wife. She does not judge on strictly legal lines, but on deeper understanding and faith in people. She keeps secrets
and doesn't judge individuals by a set of rules, other than her own deep sense of right and wrong.
the risk of making the whole show about redemptive prophets, I believe the school teacher interest of Tom's, was also prophet. She was entirely outspoken, but she lacked the proper titles that might have protected her and allowed her to speak to
her "betters" as she did. Tom let her go when he regonizced that she would never get along with Lord Grantham.
Servant: I think Mrs. Patmore is a servant. She is always busy, not interested in change that might reduce her work load, because she likes the way things are. She likes it that others depend on her, and she enjoys the accolades about
her cooking. She approaches every task as able to be done, if only she gets up early enough or stays up late enough.
She has a soft spot for Daisy. She wants Daisy to be happy and would
do anything for her, and yet she was the one who made Daisy marry the young man who went to war when he came home dying, although Daisy maintained that she did not love him.
Mrs. Patmore's goal was to make
him happy, even if Daisy felt compromised by all of it. In other words, she forced Daisy to do what she would have done out of a willingness to make his last days bettter.
Daisy, because she doesn't really
trust her own decisions, gave in, although it was a charade, but her motive was to make him happy in his dying hours.
Mrs. Patmore's best friend is Mrs. Hughes, but she always defers to
Hughes' judgment. ( A servant/ prophet relationship) Patmore is not a complicated character, but is often in a frenzy because of the amount of work she needs to get done, or what she is attempting to do for others.
You might remember when she had the nephew who ran in fear during a battle during the war. She forgave his cowardice easily and tried to manipulate his name being put on a local monument, so that her sister wouldn't have to face
the disgrace of others finding out he was a coward. Although it did not work, it was an example of how far Mrs. Patmore would go to help another person and her very non- judgmental attitude.
Teacher: Matthew was teacher. He was able to calmly and graciously sort out much of the financial dilemma
of Downton Abbey, but in a very non-confrontational, gracious, and unassuming way. Lord Grantham, because he was content to keep the status quo or respect the past, hadn't seen a number of opportunities or hadn't grasped what needed to be done
to balance the budget.
Matthew always valued integrity, as when he was willing to marry the young woman he was engaged to, regardless of Mary's change of heart toward him, and the fact that he loved Mary.
While he maintained his own covenants, he was willing to let anyone out of a binding contract with him based on his own integrity, but he never let himself out regardless of the cost. He lived the code of "responsibility" well.
He did not enjoy the "pomp and circumstance" of having a servant, and had he not been convinced that he was denying his valet a job he needed, he would have refused it. He was respected by them all for his stable
presence, his knowledge, and his kindness.
And he loved the proud and unpredictable Mary. He stablizied her and always believed the best about her. We loved him for that too.
A far more aggravating teacher is Mr. Mosley. He is more carnal in his character and less likeable than Matthew was, unless you love Mr. Mosely, and if so, I do apologize.
He cares a great deal about titles and wants to be First Footman, although he is the only remaining footman at Downton. I think this is a legitimacy issue, although he is impressed by titles. (By legitimacy
issue, we mean that he believes the title will make him more worthy. It is a way to get our "legitmacy" in another way outside of knowledge of God and resting in His purposes for us.) This galls Mr. Carson who sees the absurdity of it, which is
a bit funny because Carson is usually impressed by titles. He wants Mosely to serve out of duty, not prestige.
It is also good to note that Carson's place in society as the "ruler of the downstairs
staff" is to demand they submit out of duty and loyalty to the upstairs. The upstairs rulers, Lord Grantham and the Dowager, value and respect those who are loyal downstairs.
is a student: reading and collecting history books. He has offered to help Daisy with her studies and wishes he had more education and could have become a teacher. We think he would have made a good one.
He is also very legalistic. it took him awhile to be able to forgive Baxter for her sins, after he found out she had been a thief.
He cowers to Mr. Barrow and his sharp tongue, because he despises
confrontation, and he aggravates Mr. Carson at every turn. Mr. Carson serves out of a strong sense of identity and duty; Mr. Mosley does not. Mr. Mosely wants the credentials that prove his success.
Exhorter: Lady Rose is always looking for a party. Everyone loves her free spirit, and she has been able to convince Lord Grantham to have parties, buy a radio,
let her travel, and so on. She has brought life and excitement to Downton and also change.
She is perpetually happy and even the pompous Lord Grantham is moved by her. She finesses her way through
life, is friends with everyone, and is not restricted by the rules around her. She uses and enjoys all of the gifts and influence she has. She has dated a black Jazz player, and is now enamored with a Jewish Russian, whom she ultimately marries.
She does not see boundaries and is extremely inclusive in her relationships. She seems to enjoy challenging the heirarchy of Downton at every turn and has no real regard for the past, although she fits very nicely into a privileged lifestyle. But
she is a modern woman, even at the time, ready to embrace the new and live life to its fullest.
Giver: I believe that Tom is a giver. He is able
to see the business opportunites around him and the economy of Downton has improved with his vision. He is not concerned with social class. He wooed and married Lady Sybil while still the chauffeur, and he has adapted to being upper class with
amazing charm. He seems to fit anywhere. The others now entirely accept him, even the Dowager herself, because he fits with ease. He may feel out of place and intimidated, but no one would know by watching his ease.
He is diplomatic in convincing the others to do what is best and his decisions are financially sound. He stays on at Downton for his daughter, and we all feel that ultimately he will go, but at this time, he does not want to take her
away from her grandparents. He is practical, sensible, and although he has political ideas that are socialist, he is wise about timing and making decisions, and hiding his more radical opinions.
I also think
that Mr. Bates is a giver. He is a mystery in many ways, and he holds his cards close to his chest. We are never sure if he committed the murders he is accused of, or is being sorely misjudged. He can be a study in ambiguity. On one
hand, he is trusted and kind. Anna loves him and we all love Anna. On the other hand, he has a temper, and we are not sure what he is capable of. He does not react emotionally, at least within our view. He is extremely observant, and
we watch him as he seems to notice every nuance of emotion in others. The person who loves him most, Anna, is aware that he is capable of wrong doing to protect her. Yet, at Downton, he brings a stablizing presence and is one of the most trusted
and loyal employees. The others are willing to protect him, even if they believe he is guilty.
Ruler: There are three rulers at Downton that really make it what it is. They symbolize England
as ruler, and they are the best representation of the heirarchy, the traditions, and the ways in which Downton is accurate of a ruler nation at the time. They show the dependence of the upstairs nobility on the downstairs servants, and the ideas
and objectives that kept the system in place at that time in history. Everything works because it is a ruler nation with great respect for the ruler systems that were in place.
They are the Dowager, Lord Grantham, and Carson, the Butler. In each of them there is a mentality that it is traditiion and honoring of that tradition that will keep the ruler nation afloat. They are each dedicated to seeing
that the "proper" ways and rules are carried out to the letter. They know that a slip here or there will ultimately herald the failure of the system. There are times when Carson, the butler, who runs Downton is more proper and more unrelenting
than Lord Grantham himself. The Countess is likeable, but arrogant, about insuring that the heirarchy stay in place, and she is not above being devious to see that it is done. With the Countess, the end justifies the means.
Mercy: Lady Cora is a mercy, and a perfect match for her ruler husband. She is tenderhearted, and a perfect compliment to Lord Grantham. She is kind
and safe. She is nurturing and never wants to offend anyone, although she can forgive Mr. Barrow, or chastise him if he needs it. But even when she "chastises" it still doesn't sound forceful, but kind.
bases her decisions on emotions and feelings, and she does not act in haste. She was able to have O'Brien as a lady's maid, although the audience knew her to be a wicked character.
At times, Lady Cora,
seems naive. She forgave her current maid when she found out she was a thief and she remains in charge of her jewels. She decided that she trusted her regardless, based on her feelings without consulting anyone. She fired Nanny for
mistreating the children without consulting anyone. She is decisive when it comes to protecting others.
Often she is far more modern than anyone else, but she is, after all, American. When
she is offended, as she was with Robert over his wanting a presitigous doctor instead of the local one for their daughter, Sybil, who died in childbirth, she was unable to forgive him until her mother-in-law intervened and gave her information that helped
I think Anna, Mrs. Bates, is also a mercy. She is one of the most loved characters on the show. She is tender hearted, but extremely capable and trustworthy. She
keeps secrets, and is the only confidante of Lady Mary who seems most herself around Anna. In fact, she is most shocking around Anna.
She does not like confrontation and will avoid it at all costs, taking
things in and carrying them silently, to her own detriment. She is intensely loyal to those she loves, and always protects, even if she disagrees with their ways of doing things. She is protecting Lady Mary and Mr. Bates at the moment, and she
is doing it regardless of whether she approves of their actions.
She was naive about the motives of Mr. Green, and she even attempted to protect him from Mr. Bates' wrath, although she suffered for it.
If you are a Downton Abbey fan, seeing these characters in action will help you understand the gifts. They embody the characteristics of the gifts, and
when you have several in one category it helps to see subtle differences and strong similarities.
I think it is delightful to look at the three rulers or the three prophets alongside each other. They
have similarities, but their ranks, backgrounds, upbringings, gender, and so on make them hugely different. Their ages and ranks make a difference also. Such it is with all us: according to a pattern, but vastly unique.