The Role of Woland in Bulgakov’s “Master and Margarita”


Yershalaim, a Jewish-based city around 1930s Moscow, was where Bulgakov set his novel ‘Master and Margarita,’ which depicted Jesus’ life and death. Mikhail and Ponyrev, both authors, are debating a poem authored by Ponyrev throughout the introduction. As a result of Mikhail’s complaints, Mikhail accused Ponyrev of portraying Jesus throughout his poem appears to be so realistic and genuine. The subject of Jesus’ existence is brought up, with Mikhail Berlioz claiming that He did not exist. Suddenly, in walks Woland, a mysterious scholar whom the writer subsequently reveals to be Satan. Woland is introduced to the reader clearly and concisely in the opening paragraphs. Thus, to better understand Woland’s contribution to this particular literary work, themes will be assessed to see how Woland is employed to build each one.

Woland’s Character Analysis

The appearance of Woland throughout this scene alters the course of the debate over the divinity of Jesus Christ. Woland asserts that Jesus exists and that He is alive at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, which was permitted by Pontius Pilate, according to the Bible. Following the proclamation, Berlioz is threatened, which is interpreted as an insult. Woland warns him of decapitation the following day if he continues to forward a case against the reality of Jesus. Throughout the literature, Jesus is referred to as Yeshua (Christ the Messiah). Woland describes the events that took place around the period of Yeshua’s crucifixion and the role of Pilate throughout the overall context. Woland has a strong understanding of the events in Yerushalayim during the presentation of Yeshua before Pontius Pilate.

The most severe accusation levied on him was that he attempted to depose the most respected Roman emperor. This act was among the most harrowing allegations that an individual might face during that period of history. There was a widespread public uproar, with the general public split upon that subject. On the other hand, people who felt intimidated by his fame and the followers he developed believed that he should be removed from the competition. On the other hand, Pontius Pilate gets touched by Yeshua’s kindness despite his intellectual nature. He believes that the charges levied upon him are untrue and unfounded.

The matter in front of him drew a great deal of public attention. He was split between freeing Yeshua because his morals dictated and turning him over to his critics in the hopes of securing the public vote that would ensure his continued leadership of the organization. He finally decided to go with the latter option and protected his sanity towards the masses. Yeshua’s status as an overall leader would get jeopardized if he were to spare him. Bulgakov claims that in Pilate’s mind, the guard was already escorting the three bound captives towards the side steps on the platform, where they would be led away using the road westwards, out from the city to Mount Golgotha. Pilate opened his eyes immediately after taking a position underneath and behind this platform, confident that he evaded danger because he could not bear seeing the condemned men standing above him.

As a result, Woland is never shown or depicted as Satan in the first section of the novel. He seems to have a strong understanding of the situation and its unfolding. He contends in favor of the reality of Jesus and prophecies that Berlioz will be beheaded since he refused to acknowledge the existence of Jesus. On the very day, Woland prophesies that Berlioz will be beheaded, Berlioz slides off sunflower oil that had spilled and found himself underneath a tram, which strikes him in the skull and causes him to lose his head. The character of Woland is introduced in the following episode at the auditorium. They have a performance scheduled for that evening where they perform exclusively. The beheading of Bengalsky and his re-capitation are the primary emphasis of this particular play. Margarita is shown as the witch who appears in the novel. For her to meet Woland, she flies and travels to Moscow. She also wishes to visit the members of Woland’s group, who are now touring the country and putting on spectacular shows that have captivated the Muscovites. Further, Natasha, her housekeeper, is also accompanying her on the trip.

Margarita ultimately meets or comes across Woland and therefore is tasked with hosting Woland. The Satan’s Ball, often known as the whole or complete moon spring-based ball, is the show’s title. There seems to be a dramatic shift in the timeline of things throughout this scenario. Woland and Margarita were depicted as terrible creatures who even drank blood off Berlioz’s skull throughout the film. In attendance are people who have committed great acts of terror and were convicted. Woland continues to make fun of Berlioz’s bald head in the scene. He is described as a narcissist or sadistic individual who takes pleasure in Berlioz’s pain because he is a naive atheist. Soaring down to the topic of religion, he cannot accommodate conflicting viewpoints.

This portion is where his Satanic nature begins to be revealed to the reader. Also contributing to the growth of this persona is the appearance of Margarita, a lady viewed as the witch. Woland possesses extraordinary innate abilities that seclude him and makes him outstanding. He employs them to persuade Margarita to utter a request. Margarita’s initial wish is to have the power to save the soul of anyone she comes across while watching the show. The case against Woland has not been appealed as the show progresses further. Woland offers Margarita another opportunity to express herself without fear of being judged. This time, Margarita commands the appearance of the Master, which occurs promptly. The Master seems thrilled that he and Margarita have been reunited after a long separation. Throughout this scene, there are conflicting emotions with the turn of events. These emotions are observed when the Master and Margarita resolve to live in abject poverty since they get contented with their circumstances. Woland has become fascinated with the Pilate novella that he has been working on and talked about for several months. He attempts to have a conversation with Behemoth about its contents.

The presence of Woland throughout the city has prompted the Moscow authorities to begin an investigation. His acts in the town have been brought to the attention of the police. Attributed to the reason that Behemoth sets ablaze the apartments in Griboedev and Sadovaya, Woland, alongside his entourage, is shown as an evil individual who can get equated to Satan. Yeshua is the subject of two different narratives portrayed in the entire work of literacy. He is brought before his accusers and sentenced to death by crucifixion in the first account. Throughout the second narrative, Judas is assassinated for his betrayal of Jesus and the rest of the disciples. The Pilate offers to deliver the ultimate blow that will bring him to a close. A fusion of the two narratives happens when Yeshua dispatches Levi unto Woland with an overall directive that the restored Master be offered the serenity he desperately needs.

On the other hand, the pair is duped into drinking poison that harms them. Woland seems to be the genius behind the operation, and Azazello appears to be the go-to guy for the job. In the event of death, they are granted entrance into eternity in paradise. Because they had been given immense powers, the couple decided to join forces with Woland. At the meeting involving Pilate and Woland alongside his group, he (the Pilate) remains guilty of failing to save Yeshua over two millennia ago. In exchange for his services, Pilate gets granted independence by Woland. Therefore, the character of Woland throughout the story comes to a close after he frees Pilate from personal imprisonment. Pilate was guilty due to his treatment of Yeshua, who was subjected to torture and eventually died. In this portion, Woland does not play an utterly negative role. He alternates between good and evil, as shown throughout the narrative.

Woland claims to have been there for Pilate and Yeshua’s dialogue in his assertion. His name does not appear once in the story; however, he is mentioned in almost every part. The existence of the Shallow, which is always hovering overhead, leads readers to believe that it had to be only Woland who was responsible. Although the Shallow appears throughout the scene by chance, his presence is significant. The entire New Testament does not contain any references to Shallows (Ptashkin 64). As a result, the incorporation throughout the book offers a situation in which Woland was available and had a part in the ultimate judgment where Pilate determined that Yeshua would have to face crucifixion, presented in the text. Other than overhearing the conversation between Jesus and Pilate, there exists no other possibility he might have done so. It is the mentioned Shallow who is portrayed as the devil throughout the scene.

Although Pilate appears to be on the verge of granting Yeshua release around one moment, the Shallow gets involved and causes the ultimate judgment, which orders Yeshua’s execution. The Shallow was utilized as a metaphor for death and rebirth in Derhavin’s poetry Lastochka, and it continues to be generally used today. Consequently, it is conceivable that Bulgakov had been influenced by such masterpieces and used the Shallow on multiple occasions throughout the work. Assuming that perhaps the Shallow portrayed Woland throughout the episode where Yeshua is chatting with (Pilate the Judge), it is reasonable to believe that his purpose was wicked and that Woland desired Yeshua to face crucifixion to save himself. It was an overall inspiration that Jesus was crucified because it meant that humanity would be rescued from their sins.

Thematic Contribution

This novel seems to be an excellent place to start when it comes to finding one’s life’s true path and moral responsibilities. Woland has a favorable impact on this topic’s development. Master and Margarita’s story demonstrates Woland’s desire to assist others in finding peace and comfort. Margarita is permitted to make an overall request, even though she is the witch and has taken part in drinking Berlioz’s blood from his head (Danilova et al. 35). When she requests a meeting with the Master, Woland grants her request. They were in a beautiful relationship to watch since they were contented with each other. Finally, they have the opportunity to live together in peace. Woland, on the other hand, frequently takes on the demonic persona of Satan due to the harm he causes to others. It is unclear if he had anything to do with Berlioz’s demise. After Berlioz slipped underneath a tram and bled to death, Woland drank the blood from Berlioz’s head (Curtis 100). A little time later, Woland has them poisoned for helping Margarita and Master get back together again. Woland alternates between his everyday existence and a magical one in which he possesses unique abilities and abilities.

The concept of a hereafter offers genuine hope among individuals. Perhaps he hopes to bring closure to human misery before allowing them to savor their endless bliss in the entire afterlife. Pilate’s story demonstrates that there could be pain even after death. Pilate has been remorseful since he failed to save Yeshua two millennia ago. Woland relieves him of the weight of his responsibilities. As a result, Woland’s personality is ever-evolving. His deeds are both good and bad, as discussed as shown through various scenes in the narrative. Thus, to establish that he never intended to harm Master and Margarita, he secured an eternal home for them.

The tale depicts the emptiness of material riches among individuals. As described by Bulgakov, “Margarita might purchase whatever she desired” (Bulgakov 35). On the other hand, Margarita was a depressed woman who felt devastated. Woland’s arrival in Margarita’s life has a profound effect on her. Margarita also has a strong sense of empathy for others. In her appeal towards Woland, when granted the opportunity to do so, Margarita asks that one soul she met during the play be saved. When Woland sees that Margarita is a compassionate person, he grants her another wish in which she requests that Master reappear.

In this example, Woland serves as a vehicle for advancing the themes of wealth and self-realization. No matter how much stuff they have, nobody can be happy if they cannot come to terms with their future and past. Happiness, in reality, is characterized as a condition that cannot be achieved until an individual dies (Hawes 56). When Woland commands Margarita and Master to be executed so they can adopt bodies that promise perpetual life, it makes sense. The two are guaranteed a position to dwell in tranquillity after the final mission to liberate Pilate. Therefore, to spread awareness of happiness through material wealth, Woland is employed throughout this section.

The persona of Woland has been used to make a solid case for the presence of God. Nevertheless, the center of the debate is on the existence of extraterrestrial powers and forces that rule the world. If God does not exist, then who controls the forces? This ideology is a topic Bulgakov tries to raise within the context of this narrative (Smirnov et al., 67). In light of this, Woland correctly predicted Berlioz’s death would happen in the end. Is it possible that this is just a matter of pure coincidence? Afterward, Pilate’s choice is influenced by the mentioned Shallow’s appearance.


There are numerous transitions between this realm and the hereafter throughout the narrative. There is further evidence that God is present in these universes. An omnipresence provided by Woland throughout the narrative ensures the author’s ability to approach the subjects of the narrative with a feeling of fundamental understanding. As a result, it would have been hard to accomplish Woland’s order if his operations had been disclosed. Woland, for example, is involved in the choice to crucify Christ. Then, two millennia later, Pilate is ensnared in remorse for his failure to save Jesus. It follows that not everything about Woland’s character is satanic. This character serves as a means through which the author manages to make credible arguments more compelling to the readers.

Works Cited

Bulgakov, Mikhail. The Master and Margarita. Picador, 2019.

Curtis, J. A. E. “10.“So Who Are You, Then?” Narrative Voices in The Master and Margarita, Followed by a Stylistic Analysis of Extracts from the Text.” A Reader’s Companion to Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. Academic Studies Press, 2019. 109-131.

Danilova, Anna, and Yuri Yu Tarasevich. “Network Analysis of the Novel The Master and Margarita by M.A. Bulgakov.” arXiv preprint arXiv:2112.02820 (2021).

Hawes, Caroline-Grace. “The Role of Social Isolation as a Predetermining Factor for Postpartum Depression Development: A Literature Review.” (2020).

Ptashkin, Alexander. “The Category of Deviation in the Novel The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov.” SAGE Open 11.3 (2021): 21582440211032670.

Smirnov, I., Yu A. Kuperin, and L. A. Dmitrieva. “Computer Analysis of the Novel by M.A. Bulgakov” Master and Margarita.” 6th SWS International Scientific Conference on Arts and Humanities 2019. 2019.

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