Character Analysis The Devil


His Satanic Majesty, who rules in his palace of pleasure, is "not at all unlike Mendoza," although much older. His manners would seem to be perfect, but it is apparent that they are a veneer put on by one who is actually rather vulgar. When one recalls that Mendoza, the waiter turned brigand, was an incurable romantic suffering from unrequited love for a cook, and that he was a poet of sorts, one can understand why, among all the characters in the play proper, the Devil should resemble him. Certainly Shaw's Devil is no more terrifying than Mendoza and quite as accomplished as a speaker. Moreover, he is the thoroughgoing democrat, for he knows that the majority of humanity, particularly in England, are dreamers and drifters like him. He is content to leave Heaven to those few who recognize and accept reality and who are not pleasure seekers. Nevertheless, he is vain enough to resent the fact that Don Juan leaves Hell, which is a political defeat for the Devil.

The Devil is a master at self-exculpation, constantly feeling that he must explain and justify himself. Despite a kind of affability which seems to emanate from him, he becomes "peevish and sensitive when his advances are not reciprocated." He is quite voluble in denouncing those who (like Milton in Paradise Lost) have "misrepresented" him. On occasion he can mouth witty and startling aphorisms worthy of a Jack Tanner, as when he declares, "An Englishman thinks he is moral when he is only uncomfortable." And his devastating indictment of man as a destructive creature, in which he sums up the crimes of the past century and predicts more terrible ones to come, is worthy of a Jonathan Swift. But he is not a thinker; he is notoriously shallow, and his wit is usually forced or feeble. Unlike Don Juan, who is no less aware of man's pretentions and failures, he is content to drift. His solution is for man to seek haven in an illusory world where he can luxuriate in the tender emotions and not disturb himself about serious moral, political, and economic problems. Let man merely imagine that he is living — that is the Devil's advice. So his Hell, so attractive to the Statue and to most others, is the realm of the sentimentalists who talk eternally of love and beauty; it is a realm where everyone is comfortable, not having to exert themselves intellectually on the behalf of humanity.

Back to Top