Monday, June 20, 2011


I have been aware of Bernard Shaw for quite a long time but, for one reason or another, I have never got around to reading or watching one of his plays. However, that all changed as I read Candida (122 pages).

The story centres around a situation that has been around as long as story telling has (that’s just an educated estimation!); two men fighting over one woman. The woman in question is Candida and the two men are Reverend James Morrell (Candida’s current husband) and Eugene Marchbanks (a young poet).

The first thing I found very surprising about Candida is Shaw’s treatment of stage direction. It seems as though Shaw was worried that whoever would direct his play in the future would, in current terms, f*ck it up! You can see this through his unnecessarily long descriptions of characters and settings (for example the beginning of the play has over 3 pages worth of stage direction before the dialogue begins). His stage direction seems more fitting for a novel, or short story, than a play.

Shaw gives a very interesting insight into love throughout this book. An example of this is when he has Marchbanks explain why shy people can’t find love, “I see the affection I am longing for given to dogs and cats and pet birds, because they come and ask for it” (Shaw 43). So the moral of this is- if you are shy you are less likely to find love than a dog!

The play ends on a very interesting note. Part of the final piece of dialogue (given by Marchbanks) is “I have a secret better than that in my heart”, and the final stage direction is “they do not know the secret in the poet’s heart” (Shaw 81). Up until this point the play has been very straight forward with lots of discussion about love and beliefs yet this final line adds a twist. I can’t say it really adds anything to the play, it is more of a frustration due to the fact that nothing prior provides anything that can be read into as a secret.

During an argument between Morrell and Marchbanks, I came across another of my new words; whelp! Morrell says to Marchbanks, “You sniveling cowardly whelp” (Shaw 39). I have never heard somebody use a synonym for a puppy as an offensive term (although I supposed it makes sense coming from a reverend instead of something really offensive).

My final point about this play is in regards to an ‘extra’ at the back of this book which is called a ‘Glossary of Cockney Words’ (page 120-22). The glossary is given to help understand Mr. Burgess (Candida’s father), when I saw this I assumed it was provided because Mr. Burgess would use cockney slang (I had noticed it on the contents before starting the play). However it only really outlines words that mostly involve Mr. Burgess dropping a h when it is needed and adding a h when it is not needed. Including this somewhat undermines the intelligence of the reader especially when it tries to say it is for “a dialect used by uneducated Londoners” (Shaw 120); as an educated individual from the North West of England (nowhere near London!) that also always seems to drop the h I can assure you this isn’t a special dialect by any means.

On a non-Candida side note: I am getting really bored of the photos I include of books on this blog so seeing as I have an abundance on knick-knacks from second hand stores, you might seem little figures starting to make appearances in the images I provide!

Shaw, Bernard. Candida. London: Longmans, 1964. Print.

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