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The Devil’s Disciple

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The Devil’s Disciple

by George Bernard Shaw

Genre: Drama
Format of Original Source: Play
Recommended Adaptation Length: Two Hours

Candidate for Adaptation? Promising


Shaw’s potboiler set in Revolutionary America about a thief who sacrifices himself for a man of the cloth, and the woman caught between the two.
an excerpt:

RICHARD (Looking dreamily round). I am thinking. It is all so strange to me. I can see the beauty and peace of this home: I think I have never been more at rest in my life than at this moment; and yet I know quite well I could never live here. It’s not in my nature, I suppose, to be domesticated. But it’s very beautiful: it’s almost holy. (He muses a moment, and then laughs softly.)

JUDITH (quickly). Why do you laugh?

RICHARD. I was thinking that if any stranger came in here now, he would take us for man and wife.

JUDITH (taking offence). You mean, I suppose, that you are more my age than he is.

RICHARD (staring at this unexpected turn). I never thought of such a thing. (Sardonic again.) I see there is another side to domestic joy.

JUDITH (angrily). I would rather have a husband whom everybody respects than–than–

RICHARD. Than the devil’s disciple. You are right; but I daresay your love helps him to be a good man, just as your hate helps me to be a bad one.

JUDITH. My husband has been very good to you. He has forgiven you for insulting him, and is trying to save you. Can you not forgive him for being so much better than you are? How dare you belittle him by putting yourself in his place?


JUDITH. Yes, you did. You said that if anybody came in they would take us for man and- (she stops, terror-stricken, as a squad of soldiers tramps past the window) The English soldiers! Oh, what do they–

RICHARD (listening). Sh!

A VOICE (outside). Halt! Four outside: two in with me.

Judith half rises, listening and looking with dilated eyes at Richard, who takes up his cup prosaically, and is drinking his tea when the latch goes up with a sharp click, and an English sergeant walks into the room with two privates, who post themselves at the door. He comes promptly to the table between them.

THE SERGEANT. Sorry to disturb you, mum! duty! Anthony Anderson: I arrest you in King George’s name as a rebel.

JUDITH (pointing at Richard). But that is not- (He looks up quickly at her, with a face of iron. She stops her mouth hastily with the hand she has raised to indicate him, and stands staring affrightedly.)

THE SERGEANT. Come, Parson; put your coat on and come along.

RICHARD. Yes: I’ll come. (He rises and takes a step towards his own coat; then recollects himself, and, with his back to the sergeant, moves his gaze slowly round the room without turning his head until he sees Anderson’s black coat hanging up on the press. He goes composedly to it; takes it down; and puts it on. The idea of himself as a parson tickles him: he looks down at the black sleeve on his arm, and then smiles slyly at Judith, whose white face shows him that what she is painfully struggling to grasp is not the humor of the situation but its horror. He turns to the sergeant, who is approaching him with a pair of handcuffs hidden behind him, and says lightly) Did you ever arrest a man of my cloth before, Sergeant?

THE SERGEANT (instinctively respectful, half to the black coat, half to Richard’s good breeding). Well, no sir. At least, only an army chaplain. (Showing the handcuffs.) I’m sorry, air; but duty–

RICHARD. Just so, Sergeant. Well, I’m not ashamed of them: thank you kindly for the apology. (He holds out his hands.)

SERGEANT (not availing himself of the offer). One gentleman to another, sir. Wouldn’t you like to say a word to your missis, sir, before you go?

RICHARD (smiling). Oh, we shall meet again before–eh? (Meaning “before you hang me.”)

SERGEANT (loudly, with ostentatious cheerfulness). Oh, of course, of course. No call for the lady to distress herself. Still- (in a lower voice, intended for Richard alone) your last chance, sir.


One of Shaw’s more flashy plots; a good story! (Hangman’s noose; nail-biting rescue; Sidney Carton-esque self-sacrifice.) Its very theatricality would lend itself easily to musicalization. Is there already an adaptation out there?


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