George Bernard Shaw's The Devil's Disciple
When we are first introduced to Richard Dudgeon, at the reading of his
late father Timothy's will in his childhood home, we have already
learned of his character from the opinions of three other characters:
firstly, his mother, then from Anthony Anderson, the minister, and
finally, from Anderson's wife Judith. None of these accounts are in
Richard's favour, although Anthony Anderson is perhaps the least
against Richard of them all. Richard's mother considers Richard to be
the lowest of the low and a disgrace to his society; she believes that
there is nothing admirable about him at all. However, one could argue
that she is not much of an admirable woman herself, embittered by
having been forced to marry Timothy Dudgeon and not Timothy's late
brother Peter, for whom she really had feelings. We learn that Timothy
was the good and righteous brother, whereas Peter was not and was
therefore disgraced and cast into shame by his relatives and peers.
Richard, however, shows a profound liking and support of Peter, and
this means that he too is looked upon in disgust, particularly by his
mother. Judith Anderson has much the same opinion of Richard as his
mother does, though her dislike is perhaps not quite as severe.
Richard is put down simply because of his religious beliefs; whereas
all of his relatives are Puritans, he simply wants to enjoy life, and
this is what has earned him the title of the 'Devil's Disciple'.
Indeed, those who despise him the most are all God-fearing; his
younger cousin Essie shows a liking for him because not only does he
show her kindness, but because she herself is not a devout Puritan,
being put down herself simply for being the illegitimate daughter of
It is these three opinions that give the audience one fact; Richard
is, in the words of Judith Anderson, a 'bad man'. There is simply
nothing about him to like, and this opinion is further supported by
the fact that he is reputed to follow and to worship the Devil; a fact
that makes the audience instantly think he must be far from good in
any way. Therefore, this opinion is established in the mind of the
audience right from the beginning, from when Richard's mother first
describes him as "a lost sinner that's left his home to live with
smugglers and gypsies and villians".
Then we are introduced to Richard himself. The minute he sets foot in
his father's house, he causes a stir amongst his uncles and their
wives, who are present for the reading of Timothy Dudgeon's will.
Loudmouthed and not frightened to voice his thoughts, Richard at this
point does not make much of a better impression upon the audience.
However, what he does expose is that all of his puritanical relatives
have faults somewhere, loudly proclaiming to his Uncle William, "I
haven't seen you since you gave up drinking. You have given it up,
haven't you? Of course you have; quite right too; you overdid...