“Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight” Meaning & Origin

In previous Grammarhow articles, we’ve spoken about quotes from philosophers, academics, poetry, Shakespeare. And today, we’ll be taking a look at “Have you ever danced with the Devil in the pale of the moonlight?”

I want to look at where it comes from, what it means, and how it’s so impactful!

What does “Have you ever danced with the Devil in the pale of the moonlight?” mean?

“Have you ever danced with the Devil in the pale of the moonlight?” is from Batman 1989, from a scene where the Joker was talking to Bruce Wayne. The Joker was asking Bruce if he’s ever experienced pain as he has.

So who came up with the phrase? Shakespeare? Plato? Nitsche?

Actually, it was The Joker.

No seriously.

The unique relationship between Batman and The Joker

Batman and the Joker have a unique relationship. Whilst they’re always fighting, deep down, the two have a deep respect for one another.

Batman will never kill, and the Joker knows it! Knowing he will never be killed enables him to keep on doing crazy things. But Batman sums up his philosophy when he says “If I kill the Joker, the world will have the same number of killers”.

Different writers have given different takes on Joker. Some of them make him a victim of mental health, for some, he’s an anarchist; for others, he’s what Batman could have become.

Another interesting point about the relationship is the subversion of the genre. Unlike other hero/villain dynamics, it’s the hero who’s dark and gloomy and the villain who’s funny and cheesy.

Why The Joker said “Have you ever danced with the Devil in the pale of the moonlight?”

To understand the quote, we need to take a look at the scene.

The Joker doesn’t say it to Batman, he says it to Bruce Wayne.

Bruce is taunting the Joker, telling him how crazy he is and how he is totally unstable. The Joker says that it’s “just something he says to everyone”. But dig beneath the surface a bit, and you can tell he’s assuming that Bruce has never suffered.

Did The Joker have a point when he said “Have you ever danced with the Devil in the pale of the moonlight?”?

I’m not saying the Joker is a good role model. But with “Have you ever danced with the Devil in the pale of the moonlight?”, he might be onto something.

Obviously, he was wrong about Bruce. The man lost his parents.

But often, we judge others. We look down upon them and try to vilify them, but we would understand why they are this way if we learn about their pain.

Every one of us has gone through pain that has changed our world view. People we might think of as being unpleasant have just gone through things that we haven’t.

Why The Joker is such a great villian

The most apparent reason why the Joker is such a great villain is that he’s so fun. If we compare him to Marvel’s Thanos, the most significant difference is that the Joker knows he’s a villain and loves it! He doesn’t believe he’s on the right side, and he’s okay with that.

Unlike traditional villains, the Joker is fully aware that Batman won’t kill him. He doesn’t worry about meeting his demise.

And of course, I could probably give reasons specific to individual interpretations of the villain.

Other quotes by The Joker

Since “Have you ever danced with the Devil in the pale of the moonlight?” was said by The Joker portrayed by Jack Nicholson, I think it’s fair we talk about what made him so great.

Unlike other Jokers, who are just mad, and don’t care about how they look, Jack’s Joker has a certain class and elegance about him. Yes, he would murder, and torture, but he did so with manners and sophistication.

He’s also one of the few interpretations of the Joker to have killed Batman’s parents. Giving Bruce and the Joker more of a personal connection.

Another thing that makes him what he is- unpredictableness. You never know what he’s going to do next.

Other quotes by The Joker

Fictional characters can be philosophers too. Let’s take a look at some of his other memorable quotes.

Smile, because it confuses people. Smile, because it’s easier than explaining what is killing you inside.”

“As you know, madness is like gravity…all it takes is a little push.”

“I’m Not Mad At All! I’m Just Differently Sane!!”

“The Real Joke Is Your Stubborn, Bone-Deep Conviction That Somehow, Somewhere, All Of This Makes Sense! That’s What Cracks Me Up Each Time!”

Alternatives to “Have you ever danced with the Devil in the pale of the moonlight?”

There are other ways you can talk about concepts such as pain and evil.

Nische would probably argue that The Joker has starred into the Abyss. Meaning, he’s contemplated evil so much that he became evil.

Author Steven King once said “Monsters are real. Ghosts are too. They live inside of us, and sometimes, they win.”

In less severe situations you might tell someone they need to “Live in the real world”. This implies they have been pampered their whole life, and have never experienced pain and suffering.

The Joker is paraphrasing what people have been saying for centuries.

Other phrases that talk about the Devil

The Joker is not the first person to invent a phrase that talks about the Devil, here are some of my favourites…

  • Speak of the Devil.

Usually said in a banterous way, it’s implying that you were speaking of the Devil, and the person who just walked in is the Devil. Most of the time, this is only said as a joke.

  • Playing Devil’s advocate.

When you argue a point of view you don’t believe. Usually, to encourage critical thinking in others.

  • Devil incarnate

A deeply unpleasant person.

  • Beelzebub has a Devil put aside for me.

When you’re a terrible person. The implication is that you’re going to Hell, and there is already a Devil ready for you.


“Have you ever danced with the Devil in the pale of the moonlight?” is a quote from The Joker is Batman, from 1989. It means “Have you ever been through pain?”

Although knowing The Joker, I wouldn’t be astonished if he meant it literally.

Just because the Joker is fictional, doesn’t mean we can’t look at his philosophy, analyse it like we would with Plato or Nitsche.

But of course, he was wrong. Bruce has been through a lot of pain! He lost his parents, then went onto becoming Batman! All he knows is pain.