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Candida


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A: George Bernard Shaw Pf: 1897, Aberdeen Pb: 1898; rev. 1930 G: Com. in 3 acts S: The Morells' home, London, 1894 C: 4m, 2fRevd James Morell is a Christian Socialist, whose fiery denunciations of contemporary working conditions do not shrink from attacking his own father-in-law. His wife Candida returns from holiday in the company of a young poet Eugene Marchbanks. Marchbanks confesses to Morell that he loves Candida, and when Morell complacently dismisses Marchbank's claim on her, the poet, frightened as he is, denounces Morell's pomposity. Morell orders him out of the house, and Marchbanks accuses him of cowardice – that he dare not let Candida choose between them. Morell counters by inviting Marchbanks to stay alone with Candida that evening while he goes out to preach. When he returns to find Marchbanks worshipfully repeating Candida's name, Morell now insists that she must choose between them. He offers all the support of a Victorian husband, Marchbanks offers only his weakness. Candida says she will choose the weaker of the two, her husband. Chastened, Morell embraces his wife, and the poet has to go out, alone, into the night.

A: George Bernard Shaw Pf: 1897, Aberdeen Pb: 1898; rev. 1930 G: Com. in 3 acts S: The Morells' home, London, 1894 C: 4m, 2f

In some respects Candida, subtitled A Mystery, was written as a reversal of Ibsen's A Doll's House. Here the ‘doll’ is not the wife but the molly-coddled husband, who believes himself the source of domestic strength, but is supported wholly by ‘a castle of comfort and indulgence and love’ provided by the wife. Candida (the name was invented by Shaw to reflect her candour) is one of the strongest women in 19th-century drama: not only does she understand that she is the source of Morell's strength but she makes the free choice to flirt outrageously and dangerously with an adoring 18-year-old, while remaining overtly faithful to her husband. Marchbanks, in whom Shaw perhaps dramatized his younger self, has the strength of acknowledging his own weakness.

Subjects: Theatre — Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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