Ideas portrayed in "Candida", by George Bernard Shaw.

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In 1896, George Bernard Shaw wrote 'Candida', which became his first successful work as a playwright after its first performance the following year (1897) and its publication two years later (1898).

Set in the north east suburbs of London, the three-act play is presented as a comedy in which the comfort of the Reverend Morrell in his marriage to Candida is threatened by the arrival of the young poet Marchbanks. As the story develops, these two men fight for the love of Candida, who is forced to choose between one of them. At the end, she decides to stay with her husband, arguing that he is the weakest of the two and thus, the one who needs her most.

Nevertheless, apart from the amusing love triangle portrayed in the play, it is also possible to identify, at a higher level of analysis, the presence of those elements which are often considered to be Shaw's major ideas in writing: Socialism, Feminism and the concept of Life Force.

Out of those three notions, that of the Socialism is by far the most evident, since it appears in the story itself as the basis of Morrell's political ideas. This is made clear from the beginning of the play, basically in two moments. First, when describing the elements in the room, among which we find "Fabian Essays, a Dream of John Ball, Marx's Capital, and half a dozen other literary landmarks in Socialism" (Shaw, 1898). Later, and more explicitly, when Morrell is presented as "a Christian Socialist clergyman of the Church of England, and an active member of the Guild of St. Matthew and the Christian Social Union" (Shaw, 1898). In this way the author, having been an active member of the Fabian Society, introduces his belief that "the ordering of society should be in the hands of educated, reasonable man" and his ideal of "ordered progress in democracy"("George Bernard Shaw", n.d.).

The subject appears a few more times along the story, again, related to Morrell. For instance, in the various scheduled lectures that the Reverend is supposed to give: "Guild of St. Matthew on Monday. Independent Labour Party, Greenwich Branch, on Thursday. Monday, Social-Democratic Federation, Mile End Branch, (...) the Fabian Society" (Shaw, 1898). Thus, the idea of Socialism constitutes a major issue for the full understanding of one of the main characters, Morrell, by means of whom the author clearly "expresses his personal ideals and thoughts in this play" (Steinhorst, 2003).

As regards the notion of Feminism, it appears more subtlety, which means that it requires a study at a higher level of abstraction so as to be perceived. Namely, it is necessary to make a deeper study of characters, especially of Candida in relation to Morrell and Marchbanks.

On the one hand, Candida is presented with a very positive description, as a beautiful, intelligent, strong and protective woman. At one occasion she says, in reference to his husband, "My boy shall not be worried: I will protect him" (Shaw, 1898). In a time where females were not encouraged to give their opinions, Candida manages to speak her mind at the same time she maintains the order among the rest of the characters and carries on with the household keeping.

On the other hand, even though they are not given explicitly negative features, Morrell and Marchbanks show many flaws in spite of their good qualities. Morrell is introduced as "a vigorous, genial, popular man of forty, robust and good-looking, full of energy, with pleasant, hearty, considerate manners, and a sound, unaffected voice, which he uses with the clean, athletic articulation of a practised orator, and with a wide range and perfect command of expression" (Shaw, 1898). However, he represents the boredom in the story, being a dull clergyman, a "windbag", constantly making the mistake of addressing everyone, including her wife, as if they were his audience. Candida is aware of how insensitive her husband is, as can be seen when she tells him: ", darling, you understand nothing"...
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