Serjeant Musgrave's Dance Characters

John Arden

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Serjeant Musgrave

Serjeant Musgrave, called Black Jack, the leader of the small band of army deserters and a prime mover in the violent, ill-fated stratagem to denounce British colonialism in the home community of one of his murdered compatriots. Part prophet and part madman, he is obsessed with his mission. He seethes with a quiet, self-righteous fury that he struggles to suppress with an insistence on order and what he calls logic. Although at times aloof and distant from his men, he commands their loyalty and respect. He is humorless, tough, acrid, intimidating, and severe. Like many pious visionaries, he is spiritually myopic, and he badly miscalculates the impact of his bloody scheme.

Private Sparky

Private Sparky, one of Musgrave’s men. Youthful and insecure, he masks his doubt behind a stream of songs, idle chatter, inane stories, and card tricks, irritating his comrades. His plan to defect and run off with Annie leads to his accidental, violent death, prefiguring the play’s somber conclusion.

Private Hurst

Private Hurst, another of the band. Seemingly more mature and dedicated than Sparky, he is bloody, resolute, handsome, and vain. Although distrustful of Musgrave’s piety, he follows him for his own cynical reasons. As an atheist, anarchist, and murderer, gratuitous violence suits him perfectly. Although prevented from doing so, he is willing to fire on the crowd after Musgrave falters in purpose. His shooting ends the threat to the townspeople.


(The entire section is 637 words.)


(Drama for Students)

Annie is the barmaid who works in Mrs. Hitchcock’s pub. She earned a bad reputation by becoming impregnated by Billy...

(The entire section is 847 words.)