Theatre / The Devil's Disciple

A comic play by George Bernard Shaw set during The American Revolution, which tells of the title character, Richard Dudgeon, and his opposite, the Rev. Anthony Anderson, and the events which follow when British soldiers come to arrest Anderson for treason and Dudgeon takes his place. A further element is how Anderson's wife, Judith, rapidly goes from loathing Dudgeon to falling in love with him. Adapted into a movie several times; most notably in 1959, starring Kirk Douglas as Richard Dudgeon, Burt Lancaster as Anthony Anderson, and Laurence Olivier as General John Burgoyne.

The Devil's Disciple provides examples of:

  • Anti-Villain: General Burgoyne is the perfect gentleman, and obviously respects Dudgeon.
  • Black Sheep: Richard Dudgeon.
  • Catch Phrase: Major Swinden's repeated cry of "Monstrous impudence!"
  • The Cavalry: Anderson comes riding in at the last minute to save Dudgeon and ruin Gen. Burgoyne's day.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Gen. Burgoyne. He is consistently shown to have a firm grasp of both the "big picture" and the countless details that keep an army fighting. He is also concerned about his over-reliance on foreign mercenaries.
  • Easy Evangelism: Dudgeon is able to bring Judith and Anthony Anderson around to his viewpoint in record time.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Rev. Anderson goes from being an anonymous provincial priest to the man who almost singlehandedly destroyed Gen. Burgoyne's American campaign.
  • Grand Inquisitor Scene: Gen. Burgoyne doesn't want to hang Dudgeon, but it's his duty.
  • Honor Before Reason: Dudgeon switches places with Anderson to save him from being arrested by the British. Upon learning this, Anderson promptly sets out to return the favor (instead of using the chance to run for his life).
  • Hourglass Plot: Dudgeon and Anderson switch places to a great extent over the course of the play, and Anderson even wants to further this by giving his wife to Dudgeon and demanding that Dudgeon join the clergy.
  • I Ate WHAT?!: Subverted in the film version. After eating a bowl of soup, General Burgoyne asks one of his men what was in it. Clearly expecting this reaction, the soldier admits that it was rattlesnake. General Burgoyne doesn't even miss a beat before pronouncing it delicious. And he goes back for seconds.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Anthony tries to do the noble thing and let Judith go off with Richard, but Richard knows the Andersons belong together, and in the end Anthony and Judith ride away.
  • Just Following Orders: The attitude of most of the British officers, especially when they're hanging Dudgeon.
  • Les Collaborateurs: Rev. Parshotter is a Loyalist who tells the colonists to do as they're told.
  • Love Triangle: One develops pretty rapidly between Anthony, Judith, and Richard.
  • Meaningful Look: In the 1959 film, there is a brief one between Anthony and Richard. As Richard is trying to thank Anthony for saving his life, Anthony gives him a wink over Judith's shoulder, as if to say that the whole "I Want My Beloved to Be Happy" thing is just a ruse. Richard gives him a look back as if to say "You sly dog". From there on, it's pretty clear that Anthony will take Judith back, and that Richard will step aside.
  • The Neidermeyer: Major Swinden. General Burgoyne recognizes this and calls him on it.
    Major Swinden: Come what may, General, the British soldier will give a good account of himself.
    General Burgoyne: And therefore I suppose, sir, the British officer need not know his business; the British soldier will get him out of all his blunders with a bayonet? In future, sir, I must ask you to be a little less generous with the blood of your men, and a little more generous with your own brain.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Richard is the only person in his family who is kind to the family servant Essie. He comes across as better than the Andersons, who, while nicer to Essie, are also highly patronizing.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: General Burgoyne. His own troops have nicknamed him "Gentlemanly Johnny".
  • Punch! Punch! Punch! Uh Oh...: A British officer breaks a chair over Anthony's back. Anthony gives him a surprised look. The officer punches Anthony in the face. Another look. Another punch, another look. Cue a look of utter terror from the officer, before Anthony punches him across the room.
  • Stop Motion: Used with puppets to provide some exposition over scene transitions in the 1959 film.
  • Title Drop: Richard calls himself "the devil's disciple".
  • Unexpected Inheritance: Richard is surprised to learn that he has inherited the bulk of his father's estate (minus £50 to his younger brother), and that his mother was passed over.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Played with by the closing narration in the 1959 film.
    Narrator: ...but that is a matter of history, on which it is impossible to rely. The rest of this story is pure fiction. You can safely believe every word of it.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Theatre/TheDevilsDisciple