Serjeant Musgrave's Dance

by John Arden

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Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 180

Compare and contrast the character of Serjeant Musgrave with Mother Courage from Bertolt Brecht’s play Mother Courage and her Children. How does armed conflict impact the lives of these characters?

Research psychological and sociological writings on army life and desertion. How do the military characters in the play embody these theories? Why do Hurst, Attercliffe, and Sparky follow Musgrave’s orders as long as they do?

What was the state of the British economy at the time of the play, particularly in the north of England? Focus on the impact of labor strikes. Does this give you a new perspective on the characters of the colliers? Are economic conditions part of the reason why the colliers are not as sympathetic to Musgrave’s message as he expects them to be?

Pick one of the dances, songs, or poems in Serjeant Musgrave’s Dance. Research its origin and history. You might choose ‘‘Michael Finnegan,’’ the song often whistled by the Bargee. What does the song or dance add to the play and how does it reflect the play’s themes?

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