The Devil's Disciple - by George Bernard Shaw

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The Devil's Disciple by George Bernard Shaw

The Devil's Disciple A Melodrama in Three Acts; Like several of Shaw's early plays, The Devil's Disciple first produced in 1897 and published in his collection Three Plays for Puritans in 1901 takes an existing popular theatrical form, in this case melodrama, and adapts it to serve Shaw's dramatic purposes. In the preface to Three Plays for Puritans he writes: It does not contain a single even passably novel incident. Every old patron of the Adelphi [a theatre which specialized in melodrama] pit would recognize the reading of the will, the oppressed orphan finding a protector, the arrest, the heroic sacrifice, the court martial, the scaffold, the reprieve at the last moment, as he recognizes beefsteak pudding on the bill of fare at his restaurant. As well as using the stock devices of melodrama, Shaw writes in the preface that he unashamedly borrowed from previous works, Mrs Dudgeon being drawn from Mrs Clennam in Dickens's Little Dorrit and Dick Dudgeon's willingness to go the gallows for another man deriving from Sidney Carton's sacrifice in A Tale of Two Cities. The play was given its first production in the United States and was successful there. When it was produced in England it had little success, the main reason probably being that the plot involves a British military defeat. Melodrama was attractive to Shaw at the beginning of his dramatic career because it incorporated certain ideals, attitudes, beliefs, values, which an audience would accept virtually without question but which he aimed to undermine. Thus he retains the form of melodrama but radically alters the content, his aim being to tackle the large numbers of shams, repressions, sentimentalities, insincerities, and ideal with which, he claims, the English identify and take pride in. Two of the ideals that Shaw sets out to attack in this play are the ideal of the family and the ideal of marriage. The main character of The Devil's Disciple, Dick Dudgeon, is in revolt against the ideal of the family to the extent that he has rejected his own family. Identifying with the devil has prevented his spirit being taken over by his mother's life-denying religion. In the preface Shaw claims that it is the failure of marriage or the family that creates the idealization of them because idealists refuse to accept the reality of that failure and substitute ideals in place of the reality. Mrs Dudgeon is an idealist of this type, a person for whom marriage and the family have failed but who endeavours to hide this fact by turning them into ideals. She refused to marry the man she loved, Dick's uncle Peter, because he was irreligious and instead married a man she didn't love because he was god-fearing, but she refuses to recognize that this act destroyed any chance of a happy marriage and family life and condemns Peter and her son for their refusal to conform. The setting of the play is New Hampshire in 1777 at the time of the American Revolution. In the first act Dick Dudgeon's father has died and the action culminates in the reading of his will. Much to his mother's consternation, a former will is revoked in order that the house and the land belonging to it be left to Dick Dudgeon, the eldest son. At the end of the act Dudgeon asserts that he is rightfully called the Devil's Disciple much to the horror of Judith, the wife of the minister, Anthony Anderson. The second act is set in Anderson's house. Dudgeon calls at the minister's invitation. He is warned that he may be in danger as his uncle has been hanged by the British army. When the minister has to leave because he is summoned to go to Mrs Dudgeon who has been taken ill, Dudgeon and Judith are left alone together. The British come to the house to arrest Anderson but mistake Dudgeon for him. --This text refers to the Kindle Edition edition.

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Publisher: Echo Library

Released: 2006



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