Burgess is a minor character. He is the father-in-law of Morell. His entry in different scenes adds a comic relief to the otherwise sober play. He acts as a catalyst for Morell to share his views on socialism while Burgess himself emphasizes on capitalist ideology.
The author has added a negative shade to his character. He has been described as a vulgar, coarse, ignorant and guzzling man. His physical appearance has been depicted as around 60 years of age, with a square face, dust colored beard, watery blue eyes and a snout nose.
Burgess has been portrayed as a rich man who has gained fortune through selfishness and adopting mean ways. He is the symbol of the section of the society that wants to get the work done – be it through a fair or unfair manner. He has of exploiting nature. He employs women and children, underpays them and makes them work strenuously for long hours. In this way, he is able to submit lowest cost for various profitable tenders and amasses a lot of wealth.
He does not feel guilty on calling Morell (his son-in-law) a fool as the latter got one of his contracts cancelled due to possible exploitation of women and child labour engaged in the project. He is of the view that if workers are paid more, they start drinking and get engaged in other evil activities.
He insults Proserpine on various occasions as he considers her a poor working class lady. He even criticizes Morell for being noble to her.
As soon as Burgess becomes aware about royalty of Marchbanks, he started flattering him. Burgess hosted a lavish dinner just to impress the Chairman of the County Council. This shows that his behavior is altogether different in presence of rich and affluent people.
He uses a cockney or greedy dialect which adds a comical angle to the play. His thought that there are four mad people in the house – Candida, Morell, Marchbanks and Proserpine, or the way he threatens Proserpine are quite hilarious. The use of ‘poetic horrors’ by him is a catchy phrase.