Serjeant Musgrave's Dance



  • A play protesting against war and violence by John Arden.This "historical parable" was first performed in 1959at the Royal Court Theatre, London; its action was quickly comparedwith events during the last days of British rule in Cyprus. Althoughthe original production was a failure, the work has since been hailedas a classic and is frequently revived.

    Set in Victorian England, the story follows four soldierswho desert their overseas unit after the death of their comrade, BillyHicks. Musgrave leads them to Billy's home town, a northern miningcommunity weakened by a coal strike. Here they publicly exhibit Billy'sskeleton to the locals in order to turn them against the colonialwar. They receive no support from the townspeople and after the accidentaldeath of one of the soldiers they decide to kill "five timesfive" civilians as a lesson to the community. Another soldieris killed, but a massacre is prevented by the arrest of the two remainingdeserters. The innkeeper comments that "you can't cure the poxwith further whoring" - a pithy reflection on SerjeantMusgrave's problem.