Anyone have any thoughts on these two plays?
I read them both at the start of my vacation, and they were very thought provoking. These have nothing to do with the Presbuteras series, but are thrown out there for conversation for its own sake.
*** Spoilers follow. If you don't want to know how they end, move to another post :-) ***
The staged Pygmallion ends with the protagonists separating on somewhat icy terms, but with no real reason not to believe they eventually marry. All well and good. The written play, though, continues with a long note by Mr. Shaw stating that everyone who thinks that is how the story really ends is just enfeebled by their lazy dependence on the ready-mades and reach-me-downs of the ragshop in which Romance keeps its stock of "happy endings" to misfit all stories.
He spends a number of pages informing us that a strong person must always marry a weak person or not marry at all. An especially strong man raised by a good mother, who gives him all the refining things of life, and teaches him to entertain himself, need never marry at all. The vulgarity of the marriage relationship will not even appeal to him. In any case, he asserts, two strong people can never marry. The strong man with a strong mother, for example:
If an imaginative boy has a sufficiently rich mother who has intelligence, personal grace, dignity of character without harshness, and a cultivated sense of the best art of her time to enable her to make her house beautiful, she sets a standard for him against which very few women can struggle, besides effecting for him a disengagement of his affections, his sense of beauty, and his idealism from his specifically sexual impulses. ... when we look around and see that hardly anyone is too ugly or disagreeable to find a wife or a husband if he or she wants one, whilst many old maids and bachelors are above average in quality and culture, we cannot help suspecting that the disentanglement of sex from the associations with which it is so commonly confused, a disentanglement which persons of genius achieve by sheer intellectual analysis, is sometimes produced or aided by parental fascination.
Shaw "afterwards" the story by telling us that Eliza marries the spineless male of the story, Freddy, who truly loves her, rather than marry the male protagonist who will never really need her. Freddy is agreeably weak, and dotes on her happily. Higgins, the male protagonist, would never be happy with anyone between himself and his passions. So, in marrying Freddy, she makes all three of the characters happier in the end.
In Candida, Mr. Shaw does something different, but reaches the same conclusion. He gives us a presentable and personable priest who is diligent in his work and loved by all. This priest is married to Candida, who is in all respects perfect in his eyes. Introduced into the mix is an 18 year old poet who is passionately entranced with Candida.
The passionate poet and the pedestrian priest slowly escalate a private confrontation over the heart of Candida until, in the last act, Candida catches wind of what's going on. She confronts them both in the only way that the brutish men will understand - directly and together.
Candida recalls for the poet that her priest has won many trophies in his life, and that he has no idea how he won them. He won them because his mother and sisters spoiled him from the cradle and made countless sacrifices to enable him to concentrate on winning them.
Candida: Ask James's mother and his three sisters what it cost to save James the trouble of doing anything but be strong and clever and happy. Ask me what it costs to be James's mother and three sisters and wife and mother to his children all in one. Ask the [hired help] how troublesome the house is even when we have no visitors to help us slice the onions. Ask the tradesmen who want to worry James and spoil his beautiful sermons who it is that puts them off. When there is money to give, he gives it: when there is money to refuse, I refuse it. I build a castle of comfort and indulgence and love for him, and stand sentinel always to keep little vulgar cares out. I make him master here, though he does not know it, and could not tell you a moment ago how it came to be so. ...
She then turns to the poet and asks.
Am I your mother and sisters to you?
To the poet, she is only a siren, and he storms off into the night, allowing the story its "happy" ending.
Like I said. It made me think. If it does you too, I'd be curious what are your thoughts.