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Man and Superman


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A: George Bernard Shaw Pf: 1905, London; complete text 1915, Edinburgh Pb: 1903 G: Com. in 4 acts S: England and Spain, 1900s, and hell C: 18m, 7fOn the death of her father, Ann Whitefield is given as guardian two very different men: Roebuck Ramsden, a respectable man of about 60, and Jack Tanner, a rich radical in his thirties, whom Ramsden considers an anarchist. Although wooed by Octavius (Tavy) Robinson, a sensitive poet, Ann has fallen for Tanner. In order to escape Ann's designs on him, Tanner flees to Spain with his chauffeur Straker. Captured by brigands, Tanner has a dream, ‘Don Juan in Hell’: Don Juan (Tanner) greets Doña Ana (Ann), indignant that she is in hell, and Ana's father the Statue (Ramsden). There follow lengthy debates, mainly between Don Juan and the Devil, about the ‘Life Force’. Bored with hell, Don Juan decides to pursue the Life Force in heaven and is followed there by Ana. They awake to find that Ann has followed Tanner to Spain. Rejecting Octavius, she insists that she will win Tanner for herself. At first Tanner stubbornly resists but eventually succumbs to the inevitable Life Force, surrendering his freedom for a life of domesticity.

A: George Bernard Shaw Pf: 1905, London; complete text 1915, Edinburgh Pb: 1903 G: Com. in 4 acts S: England and Spain, 1900s, and hell C: 18m, 7f

Described by Shaw as ‘a comedy and a philosophy’, Man and Superman can be enjoyed as a comedy in which the girl gets her man, or, especially through the ‘Don Juan in Hell’ scenes (which, as at the London premiere, are often omitted in performance), as a philosophical debate which informs the comic outcome. The comedy sparkles with wit and presents well-drawn characters, even in the sub-plot involving Ann's sister. The philosophical debates, though protracted for modern theatrical taste, are lively and thought-provoking in their discussion of the Life Force, derived from the thinking of Nietzsche and Bergson.

Subjects: Literature.


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Authors

George Bernard Shaw (1856—1950) playwright and polemicist


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