The Devil's Disciple

Definition

Theater

  • George Bernard Shaw's comedy satirizing melodrama,first performed in Albany, New York (1897), then days later at theFifth Avenue Theatre, New York. The play was produced by the US actorRichard Mansfield, who also played General Burgoyne, one of Shaw'swittiest characters (see Gentleman Johnny). Set inNew Hampshire during the War of American Independence, the play tellsthe story of Dick Dudgeon, who has a reputation as a villainous free-thinker(the devil's disciple of the title); in fact, it transpires that heis both generous and self-sacrificing. When he is arrested by theEnglish, who mistake him for the local minister, he declines to savehis life by pointing out the error. This altruistic gesture wins theheart of Judith, the minister's wife. The minister, however, turnssoldier and, rescuing Dick from the gallows at the last minute, winsback his wife.

    Though Mansfield had great success with The Devil's Disciple(taking it on tour after a long New York run), he had an abiding dislikefor Shaw as both man and author. When a senator suggested that Mansfieldought to thank God each night for finding such a play, he repliedthat he did, but always with the addition, "Why, O God, didit have to be by Shaw?"

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