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The name Belphegor is the name of a mythical demon, and deriving from that a fictional character that occurs in, and lends his name as title to, a large number of stage plays, novels and works of art over the centuries.

Belphegor the character

According to Wikipedia[1] “Belphegor (or Beelphegor, Hebrew: בַּעַל-פְּעוֹר‎ baʿal-pəʿōr - Lord of the Gap) is a demon, and one of the seven princes of Hell, who helps people make discoveries. He seduces people by suggesting to them ingenious inventions that will make them rich”.

A large number of works have been written using this name in the title, or a character by this name.

Stage Plays featuring Belphegor

The history of the character in theatre is a complicated one for there have been numerous plays over the years featuring this some version of the character, often using the name as (part of) the title. The problem is further compounded because many authors performed and published such works under more than one variation of the title.

Among them are the following.

(Those texts that have been performed - or may possibly have been performed - in South Africa are provided with blue links to the relevant entries. Click on the link for more information on the particular text.)

One of the earliest plays featuring the character is Belphegor, or The Marriage of the Devil by John Wilson (1627-c1696), a tragi-comedy, the play was produced in 1690.

This was followed in 1778 by a comic opera called Belphegor or the Wishes (or simply known as Belphegor), libretto written by M.P. Andrews with music by François-Hippolyte Barthélemon. Performed at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London, in 1778 and published by S. and A. Thompson.

In 1850 Adolphe d' Ennery (1811-1899)[2] and Marc Fournier (1818-1879) wrote the very popular and influential French play Paillasse (called La Paillasse in some sources, i.e. "Clown" or "The Clown") featuring a clown named "Belphégor". And from here on the matter becomes mightily confusing, for the play immediately became the source for a number of English adaptations or derivative works by various authors produced from 1851 onwards.

Among the plays are:

Belphegor, or The Mountebank and His Wife a romantic and domestic drama in three acts by Thomas Higgie (1808?-1893) and Thomas Hailes Lacy (1809-1873)[3], based on La Paillasse of Adolphe d' Ennery and Marc Fournier. First performed at the Royal Victoria Theatre, January 27, 1851 and published in London by T.H. Lacy, 1851. It also appeared under the title Belphegor, the Buffoon, or The Robbers of the Revolution (ascribed to Higgie alone), performed at the performance at the Victoria Theatre, London, on January 27, 1851 and published in Duncombe's acting edition of the British theatre, no 530).

Belphegor the Itinerant (also listed as Belphegor, or The Mountebank and His Wife) a play in four acts by John Courtney (1804-1865)[4] First produced at the Royal Surrey Theatre, on Monday, January 20, 1851 and published in Lacy's acting edition no 39.

Belphegor the Mountebank, or Pride of Bath by Benjamin Nottingham Webster (1797-1882). This was Webster's own English version of La Paillasse , first performed by Webster in the Adelphi Theatre, London, during January 1851.

Belphegor the Mountebank, or Woman's Constancy by Charles Webb, Performed in the 1850s. Translation and adaptation of La Paillasse of Adolphe d' Ennery and Marc Fournier; . First performed at the Royal Lyceum and Arch Street theatres and published by the Music Pub. Co., London, in 1856 and in French's Standard Drama, The acting edition, as No. CCCXLI in 1866. The play was used as the basis for the 1921 British silent film called Belphegor the Mountebank, directed by Bert Wynne and starring Milton Rosmer, Kathleen Vaughan and Warwick Ward. (In some editions Charles Dillon is also mentioned as an author.)

Belphegor, the Mountebank to any Amount of Property by C.H. Hazlewood. 1866.

The Acrobat by Wilson Barrett is also an adaptation of d'Ennery and Fournier's play. Performed at the Olympic Theatre from 21 April 1891 till 7 May 1891, with Barrett in the leading role.

Belphegor by L. S. Buckingham, An extravaganza in one act.

Belphegor by J. Wilton Jones, a musical comedy by Wilton Jones (libretto) and Alfred Christensen (music), opened in South Shields T.R. on October 20. 1889.


Facsimile version of the score for Belphegor or the Wishes[5]

Facsimile version of the original Le Long text for Paillasse, Google E-book[6]

Allardyce Nicoll. 1975. History of English Drama 1660-1900[7]

Facsimile version of the original Dondey-Dupré text for Paillasse[8]

Facsimile version of the original text for the Higgie 3 act version of Belphegor, or The Mountebank and His Wife, The HathiTrust Digital Library[9]

Transcript version of the original text for Courtney 4 act version of Belphegor, or The Mountebank and His Wife[10]

Alfred Harbage, Sylvia S. Wagonheim. 1989. Annals of English Drama, 975-1700. Psychology Press: p. 369[11]

Frederick Wilse Bateson (Ed.). 1940 The Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature, Volumes 1-5 CUP Archive[12]

Hambleton Theatrical Collection, 1790-1941[13]

Go to ESAT Bibliography

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