Friday, 16 August 2013

Man and Superman - George Bernard Shaw

Man and Superman - George Bernard Shaw

Authored By: George Bernard Shaw

This work, published in 1903, contains three parts: a “Epistle Dedicatory”; the play itself; and “The Revolutionist’s Handbook”. The first is a letter to the author’s friend, Arthur Bingham Walkley, who had originally suggested that GBS write a play on the subject of Don Juan; in this letter GBS not only explains why he has turned the legend on its head but presents his conviction that woman is the true pursuer in the race toward matrimony. Woven into this presentation are threads of GBS’s opinions on any number of issues and topics, expressed in his typical entertaining and articulate style and filled with Shavian bons mots.

The play proper is in four acts, the third being a long digression from the main action often referred to as “Don Juan in Hell.” Although the characters are other than in the remaining three acts, they are played by the same actors, and this subplot is closely related to the primary action. Nonetheless, this act is sometimes omitted in performance and is occasionally presented as a one-act play in itself. I have not seen any of this work in performance, and I wonder what such a performance would be like. One of my reasons for this uncertainty is the inclusion of long, complex, and philosophic stage directions that would of necessity be unknown to the audience. I suppose the solution would be to read the play before seeing it.

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