Candida


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A Comedy written in 1894




The Reverend James Morell's joy in his comfortable marriage to Candida is shaken by the arrival of the young poet, Marchbanks. Both men adore her, in quite different ways and for quite different reasons, and she is attracted to them for their very different qualities. Marchbanks believes she has a choice. Morell is devastated by the idea of losing her. They both forget she is her own woman. A highly provocative playwright of ideas, George Bernard Shaw handles the theme of marriage in this play named after a middle-aged housewife bearing the same name, a name that primarily derives from 'candid', the title of the play as much as the name of the central woman thus immediately foregrounding the theme of openness or frankness, especially in respect of love, romance and human/emotional relationship. Taking the cue from his mentor, Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen, Shaw presents the domestic woman Candida held in a queer dilemma to choose her clergyman husband Reverend James Mavor Morell or alternatively her young poet lover Eugene Marchbanks, both of whom vie for her love and loyalty. The secular priest Morell feels increasingly threatened by the 'calf-love' between Candida and Marchbanks for he is heavily dependent on Candida in all household matters and cannot just think of living without her, while, on the other hand, Marchbanks poetises and philosophizes to impress upon Candida with an alternative world of imagination beyond domesticity. Shaw brilliantly handles the theme of freedom of a domestic woman by upturning the age-old triangular love-relationship when in the closing scene Morell's wife and Marchbank's beloved Candida is put on auction at which it is Candida herself who chooses Morell as the 'weaker of the two'. Unlike Ibsen's Nora, who leaves her husband by slamming the door, Candida stays back with her husband as her young lover goes away, but she must now be a different woman as Morell is far from a prevailing and protective male.--Submitted by Kuntal Chattopadhyay


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Recent Forum Posts on Candida

candida

critically comment on the character of marchbanks in the light of the image of the poet in the victorian age what is candida's response to marchbank's feelings for her?why does she choose morrell over marchbanks?


Candida's choice

Depicted as a "strong woman," Candida makes the wrong choice, but being a strong woman at the time the play was written simply meant that she did have the power to make her own choices. The sad thing is in the last act, Candida chooses to be a co-dependent, because as her husband James is "the weakest" and indeed, the neediest, of her two choices, she prefers to be the strong partner by choosing the role of mother to her "baby" James. She turns to the real baby and scolds him with the reminder of their age difference, the only thing Shaw could possibly think of at the time to justify Candida's choice. So in the end putting the beggar poet's future in the hands of his own heart, Candida refuses to follow the longing in her own heart for the passion and excitement that the younger suitor's presence has allowed her "the choice...>" To put this play into production in this day and age with the last comments of Act III dedicated to the ageist excuse Candida uses to dismiss the young poet I think is quite unsuitable considering the progress women have made in regard to making their choices, at many times preferring the companionship of younger more adventurous men directed by their longing hearts, to the boredom and "comfort" of older men that in essence crave their wives to be their second "mothers."


Shaw's cop-out

If you are looking for witty repartee between male and female characters, Shaw's one act, Overruled, I think wins hands down over Candida.

Candida chooses her comfortable though boring and befuddled husband over the passionate young poet. In the end she decides to choose the weaker "baby" of the two, meaning her husband, while the youngster poet ends up with a scolding and a cop-out admonition about how the difference in their ages will eventually extinguish any feelings of passion between them.

After re-reading Candida I can only say to put on its production in this day and age should require an apologetic statement to all the women who have chosen happiness with younger men that suit them. Given that Candida was a "strong woman" play in Shaw's day and age, it is now so culturally outdated as to be unworthy of a staging. If you want the satire and the wit that Shaw could produce with such ease, save your time, and read the one act Overruled. A theatre group in Richmond, Virginia is planning on Candida this Spring.


No Subject

They say that behind every great man is a great woman. Some woman find themselves fulfilled by being their husband's needed support and help-meet. Today this is an old fashioned idea, but the truth remains that it is a woman that makes her man "master in his house", and no man can be master unless she decides to let him be. Candida is depicted throughout the play as being the "ideal" of a strong woman, and it would have been a pathetic conclusion to see this woman throw away her marriage vows and integrity to run off with a coward of a poet. It's only weak women that choose passion over commitment, which is why we have so many families with children from who knows how many fathers. Truly, our human nature desires a more exciting ending and would totally understand if she had chosen the poet, but Shaw is presenting her strength and virtue through the choice she made. It would be an incomplete conclusion to his theme if at the end she became less than the woman she was.


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