Essays Candida By George Bernard Shaw

Shaw's "Candida" as a Drama of Ideas

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Shaw himself wrote that Candida `is a counterpoint to Ibsen's Doll's House, showing that in the real typical doll's house it is the man who is the doll'.Ibsen in A Doll's House(1879)had shown how men treated their wives as inferior creatures, or dolls,and at the end of the play his heroin rebels and leaves her her husband .In Candida Shaw powerfully and effectively reverses Ibsen's idea.

Counterpoint or reversal was Shaw's favourite technique in all of his plays.In Candida,he not only reverses the main idea of a Doll's House but also counterpoints the typical situation of an established type of Victorian domestic comedy.Play about romantic adultery,or its type possibility, were very popular in the nineteenth century.These plays usually featured a dull husband, a romantic wife, and an attractive, glamorous lover. In the interest of morality, the lover usually lost and the marriage was reversed, but his attractions remained strong. In reaction against this trend, a new type of play began to emerge in which the prosaic husband turns out to be the better man and the glamorous lover is exposed at the end as being corrupt and undesirable .As Martin Meisel has observed it is the basic situation of this second type of play that Shaw reverses in Candida.

To understand any play by Shaw, we must remember that he was a playwright of ideas. Basically, he was not interested in character development, emotional complexity, or plot, but in ideas. His plays present us with opposing viewpoints which lance and trust at each other as in a fencing match until the strongest of them wins. In any of Saws plays, ideas clash as soldiers would an a battlefield and he presents us with an intellectual war in which both sides put up a good fight. It is no exaggeration to say that Shaw added a new dimension to the stage . His real achievement is that he succeeded in dramatizing intellectual positions. His characters embody various ideas and can best be studied as ideas that live and breathe and move around. In the fullest sense of the word,Shaw's plays are dramas of ideas, and it is ideas that the student should look for when he is studying any of them. What,then,is the main idea that Shaw presents to us in Candida? Stated simply,that the play exposes Victorian marriage in general by examining the apparently ideal marriage of Candida and James Morell.

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In the final decades of the nineteenth century,the `Women Question'became a central issue. Woman demanded equal rights with man. This today, in a different form, is the Women's Liberation Movement.Shaw was very much in favour of equality of the sexes, but in Candida he suggested that it is the women who are really in control. It is Morell who is need of liberation,not Candida,but he is pathetic because he cannot accept the burden and responsibilities of liberty. Marchbanks, on the other hand, reaches full maturity at the end of the play and realizes that he cannot accept a woman who will treat him as a child. Morell keeps Candida's love, but Eugene gains the far more precious gift of freedom specifically, freedom from women like Candida.



George Bernard Shaw was born on July 26, 1856, in Dublin, Ireland. His mother eventually left his father, who was an unsuccessful merchant, to teach singing lessons in London. At the age of twenty, Shaw left Dublin for London, where he wrote five novels. From an early age, Shaw identified himself as a socialist and joined the Fabian Society, a non-revolutionary Marxist group advocating for reform that would result in socialism without bloodshed. He was an extremely prolific writer who completed over fifty plays before his death of natural causes at the age of 94.

Shaw began writing rather late in life, beginning with articles for a Fabian Society publication called Fabian Letters (1889). He wrote five novels, but he earned a living as a music and theater critic, advocating strongly for the music of Richard Wagner. Shaw originally tried his hand at writing plays to flesh out his criticisms of the existing British stage. Compared to the light Victorian comedies, which were the fashion, Shaw's plays were revolutionary in their seriousness and socialist themes.

In 1895, Shaw founded the London School of Economics and Political Science with fellow Fabian Society members Graham Wallas, and Sidney and Beatrice Webb. Several collections of his photographs and correspondences are currently housed at a library at the London School of Economics that bears Shaw's name.

His earliest plays were published in a set titled Plays Pleasant and Unpleasant (1898). The Pleasant volume includes Arms and the Man (1894), Candida (1893), and You Never Can Tell (1895). The Unpleasant volume includes Widower's Houses (1892), The Philanderer (1893), and Mrs. Warren's Profession (1893). The latter play describes the relationship between a prostitute and her exacting daughter, and it was banned in London for its "immorality."

Shaw was a vegetarian and a teetotaler, and he was well known for his large ego. In 1898, Shaw married an Irish heiress who famously insisted on maintaining celibacy even after marriage. In 1901 he published Three Plays for Puritans, a collection that included The Devil's Disciple, a play about the American Revolution.

Of his later plays, Shaw is best remembered for Saint Joan (1923) and John Bull's Other Island (1904). Written four years after Joan of Arc was recognized as a saint, Saint Joan portrays the Frenchwoman as a stubborn individual who was ahead of her time. W. B. Yeats originally commissioned John Bull’s Other Island, a comedy about Ireland, for the opening of the National Theatre in Ireland; however, Yeats ultimately rejected the play for being too controversial.

Later in life, Shaw was recognized for his talents. In 1925 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature. Over a decade later in 1938 he earned an Academy Award for the film adaptation of Pygmalion. Twelve years after his death in 1950, The Shaw Festival was founded to present and celebrate George Bernard Shaw's plays. Today he is considered one of the English language's greatest wits, and adaptations of his plays, like My Fair Lady, are considered classic works.

 

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