Thereby Hangs a Tail: Jonson’s The Devil Is an Ass and Stage Representations of Devil-Servants

  • Tom Harrison Newcastle University


This article considers an ambiguity concerning the stage presentation of Pug, the inept devil-servant of Ben Jonson’s The Devil Is an Ass, and explores the implications that ‘complete’ or ‘partial’ costume changes have for how an audience interprets the character, and how this apparent visual ambiguity may have been resolved by cosmetics and/or through the performance of a specific King’s Men actor. The article concludes with a comparison of ‘devilish servant-types’ in Othello and The Changeling and argues that these three plays articulate early modern insecurities about the servant through an explicit association between the servile and the demonic.

Author Biography

Tom Harrison, Newcastle University

Tom Harrison ( is a teaching associate in the school of English literature, language and linguistics, Newcastle University, UK.