McCarter Theatre Education Department Presents


by George Bernard Shaw

Directed by Lisa Peterson

A Teacher Resource Guide
by Steven Michaels
and the Education Department
with additional materials by Janice Paran and Erica Nagel

Designed by Francine Schiffman
Web Design by Andrew Parks

McCarter Theatre Center

Offered in conjunction with the
McCarter Theatre Production
Tuesday March 23, 2004 - Sunday April 11, 2004


Introduction to the Play

Background to the Play

About This Production

Educating through Theater

This program is made possible in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Education programs at McCarter are made possible by:

  • The Bernstein Family Foundation
  • The Mary Owen Borden Foundation
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb Company
  • The William Randolph Hearst Foundation
  • Janssen Pharmaceutica, Inc.
  • J. Seward Johnson, Sr. 1963 Charitable Trust
  • The Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies
  • Nexus Properties
  • Novo Nordisk Pharmaceuticals Inc.
  • Princeton Financial Systems and State Street - New Jersey
  • Prudential Foundation
  • PSE&G
  • RBC Dain Rauscher
  • Target
  • Tribune New York Foundation
  • Wachovia

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Candida, a classic comedy of the modern English-language theater, was written in 1894 by George Bernard Shaw, the prolific Irish-born dramatist who became one of the most widely-produced playwrights of the twentieth century.

Set in London's East End during the Victorian era, Candida is about the domestic turmoil that ensues when an impetuous young poet comes between a progressive-minded clergyman and his charismatic wife. Though the story is centered on a classic romantic triangle, the questions it raises about the nature of love, fidelity, and the imagination of the artist are as provocative and enduring as ever, thanks to Shaw's vigorous wit and argumentative spirit.

Director Lisa Peterson, who last took the helm at McCarter Theatre with her 2000 production of Night Governess, has mounted several of Shaw's plays, including last season's production of Mrs. Warren's Profession at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis. Drawn to Shaw's humanism, heart, and his inquiring mind, Ms. Peterson sees him as "a man who is trying to ask questions about how we ought to behave."

Throughout this guide you will find suggested topics for class discussion (both before and after the performance) and in-class activities. If you have further questions or comments about this guide or the performance, please contact Steve Michaels, McCarter Education Associate at (609) 258-8288.

George Bernard Shaw

The Quotable Bernard Shaw

"I often quote myself. It adds spice to my conversation."

George Bernard Shaw

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Core Curriculum Standards

The Visual and Performing Arts are considered Core Curriculum areas for the New Jersey State Department of Education. This production of Candida is designed to give your students exposure to the specific Core Curriculum Standards listed below.

Candida and Curriculum Standards

This production of Candida and related study materials will provide students with specific knowledge and skills to address the following Core Curriculum Content Standards in the Arts:

1.1All students will acquire knowledge and skills that increase aesthetic awareness in dance, music, theatre, and visual arts.
1.3All students will utilize arts elements and arts media to produce artistic products and performances.
1.4All students will demonstrate knowledge of the process of critique.
1.5All students will identify the various historical, social, and cultural influences and traditions which have generated artistic accomplishments throughout the ages and which continue to shape contemporary arts.

Candida is also designed to address the following Core Curriculum Standards in Language Arts Literacy and Social Studies:

3.2All students will listen actively in a variety of situations to information from a variety of sources.
3.3All students will write in clear, concise, organized language that varies in content and form for different audiences and purposes.
3.4All students will read various materials and texts with comprehension and critical analysis.
6.2All students will learn democratic citizenship through the humanities, by studying literature, art, history and philosophy, and related fields.
6.7All students will acquire geographical understanding by studying the world in spatial terms.

George Bernard Shaw

The Quotable Bernard Shaw

"Youth is a wonderful thing. What a crime to waste it on children."

George Bernard Shaw

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Plot Summary

The play begins in October of 1894 in the drawing room of St. Dominic's parsonage in the East End of London. Reverend James Morell, a Christian Socialist minister, discusses his busy schedule with his efficient typist, Miss Proserpine Garnett ("Prossy").

Burgess, Morell's father-in-law, a successful but unscrupulous businessman from a working class background, visits the Morell home for the first time in three years. While Burgess cannot convince Morell that he has changed his nature, he impresses Morell with the news that he has raised the wages of his underpaid workers. Morell's wife Candida returns home accompanied by the 18 year-old poet Eugene Marchbanks, whom Morell has recently rescued from the streets. Once alone with Morell, Marchbanks reveals that he is in love with Candida. His nervousness fades as he speaks of Candida's beauty and how Morell does not deserve her. As Act One ends, the Reverend Morell, shaken by Marchbanks' accusation, nonetheless insists that the young man stay for lunch.

At the start of Act Two, Marchbanks is left alone with the typist Prossy. While she tries to work, he speaks of the plight of the poet and attempts to get her to confess her ardor for Morell. Flustered by Eugene's insinuations, she strikes out instead at Burgess, who has wandered in, accusing him of being a "silly old fathead."

Meanwhile, Candida senses her husband's growing discomfort on the subject of Marchbanks and pulls him aside to talk. She tries to tease him but ends up reinforcing his insecurities about their marriage and his vocation. Candida suggests that his popularity as a speaker has more to do with his personal charm than his message. Frustrated, Morell considers canceling his evening's speaking appointment. He reconsiders, though, and decides to leave Candida alone with Marchbanks as a kind of test.

At the top of Act Three, Marchbanks and Candida near the end of their evening together - an evening spent in poetry reading. Seeing that Candida is bored with the verse, Marchbanks is on the verge of declaring his love when Morell arrives home. Morell and Marchbanks size each other up, and Morell insists that Candida choose between the two of them. Candida takes up the challenge, asking each man to make his case. They do, and Candida, in a surprising turn of events, demonstrates that Morell is the weaker of the two, and therefore more deserving of her love. Marchbanks, realizing his future lies elsewhere, leaves Morell and Candida behind.

George Bernard Shaw

The Quotable Bernard Shaw

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

George Bernard Shaw

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Character Profiles

Candida - Candida is Morell's wife and mother of their two young children. Shaw explains that "she possesses the double charm of youth and motherhood. Her ways are those of a woman who has found that she can always manage people by engaging their affection, and who does so frankly and instinctively without the smallest scruple." She deeply loves her husband Morell, but is quite taken with Eugene Marchbanks' naïve, poetic nature.

"This comes of James teaching me to think for myself, and never to hold back out of fear of what other people may think of me."

The Reverend James Mavor Morell - Morell is a mature man, well-established in life, and husband to Candida. He is a Christian Socialist and clergyman of the Church of England. Shaw describes him 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 practiced orator, and with a wide range and perfect command of expression."

"These people forget I am a man: they think I am a talking machine to be turned on for their pleasure every evening of my life."

Eugene Marchbanks - Shaw states that "he is a strange, shy youth of eighteen, slight, effeminate, with a delicate childish voice, and a hunted and tormented expression and shrinking manner that shew the painful sensitive of very swift and acute apprehensiveness in youth." This young poet is madly in love with Candida, an affliction that torments him throughout the play.

"We all go about longing for love: it is the first need of our natures, the first prayer of our hearts; but we dare not utter our longing: we are too shy."

Mr. Burgess - Shaw states that Candida's father has been "made coarse and sordid by the compulsory selfishness of petty commerce, and later on softened into sluggish bumptiousness by overfeeding and commercial success. He is a vulgar ignorant guzzling man." Burgess is a businessman always keeping an eye out for his own advancement.

"When I pay a man, an' 'is livin depends on me, I keep him in 'is place."

The Reverend Alexander "Lexy" Mill - Lexy is a young curate chosen by Morell as his assistant. He is a well-intentioned, enthusiastic novice. He idolizes Morell, and tries to be just like him, and although he isn't very successful at it, he has won Morell over by his "doglike" devotion.

"I try to follow his example, not to imitate him."

Miss Proserpine "Prossy" Garnett - Shaw tells us that she is "a brisk little woman of about 30, of the lower middle class... notably pert and quick of speech, and not very civil in her manner, but sensitive and affectionate." She is secretly in love with Morell, and jealous of how he constantly gushes over Candida.

"It's enough to drive anyone out of their senses to hear a woman raved about in that absurd manner merely because she's got good hair, and a tolerable figure."

George Bernard Shaw

The Quotable Bernard Shaw

"Power does not corrupt men; fools, however, if they get into a position of power, corrupt power."

George Bernard Shaw

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Glossary of Terms

Shaw's Candida is not pronounced "Can-deed" - that's the novel by Voltaire, and Bernstein's musical. It is not pronounced "can-DEE-da" either. The title character's name is pronounced a little like the country - "CAN-de-da."

Addle - To muddle; to confuse.

Anarchist - A supporter of anarchism, a theory or doctrine that all forms of government are oppressive and undesirable and should be abolished.

Apostate - One who has abandoned one's religious faith, a political party, one's principles, or a cause.

Arrear - A remainder or balance which remains due when some part has been paid.

Blackguard - A thoroughly unprincipled person; a scoundrel.

Blackleading - using graphite to give a metallic sheer to grates and other cast iron items.

Bosh - Empty talk; contemptible nonsense; trash; humbug.

Bumptiousness - Crude or loud assertiveness; pushiness.

Cab tout - Someone who hails cabs for tips.

Cadence - Balanced, rhythmic flow, as of poetry or oratory.

Christian Socialist - Frederick Denison Maurice was acknowledged as the leader of the group and his book The Kingdom of Christ (1838) became the theological basis of Christian Socialism. In the book Maurice argued that politics and religion are inseparable and that the church should be involved in addressing social questions. Maurice rejected individualism, with its competition and selfishness, and suggested a socialist alternative to the economic principles of laissez faire.

Communist - A supporter of Communism, a theoretical economic system characterized by the collective ownership of property and by the organization of labor for the common advantage of all members.

Consternation - A state of paralyzing dismay.

Costermonger - One who sells fruit, vegetables, fish, or other goods from a cart, barrow, or stand in the streets.

Curate - A cleric who assists a rector or vicar.

Dowdy - Lacking stylishness or neatness.

Duffer - An incompetent, clumsy, insufficient, awkward person.

Eton - The largest and most famous of England's public schools, founded by Henry VI in 1440.

The Fabian Society - an order of Socialists advocating gradual social change. Shaw was an executive member for many years.

Fripperies - Trivial or nonessential things.

Indignation - Anger aroused by something unjust, mean, or unworthy.

Laity - All those persons who are not members of a given profession or other specialized field.

La Rochefoucauld, François - A French moralist, author of a book of maxims distinguished by their brevity, clarity and wit. La Rochefoucauld was a cynical observer of Louis XIV's court, who mostly saw selfishness, hypocrisy, and weakness in general in human behavior. In his pessimism La Rochefoucauld was very democratic - everybody is a sinner.

Navvy - A laborer, especially one employed in construction or excavation projects.

Peer - A nobleman; a member of one of the five degrees of the British nobility, namely, duke, marquis, earl, viscount, baron; as, a peer of the realm.

Peroration - The concluding section of an oration.

Pluck - Resourceful courage and daring in the face of difficulties; spirit.

Rhetoric - Language that is elaborate, pretentious, insincere, or intellectually vacuous.

Scarlatina - An acute communicable disease (usually in children) characterized by fever and a red rash. Synonym: Scarlet Fever.

Shallop - A small open boat fitted with oars or sails, or both, and used primarily in shallow waters.

Socialism - A theory or system of social reform which contemplates a complete reconstruction of society, with a more just and equitable distribution of property and labor.

Stave off - To keep or hold off; repel.

Teetotaler - One who abstains completely from alcoholic beverages.

Whelp - A young offspring of a mammal, such as a dog or wolf.

Women's Liberal Federation - An organization formed to lobby the Liberal Party in Parliament to support a woman's right to vote.

George Bernard Shaw

The Quotable Bernard Shaw

"Marriage: When two people are under the influence of the most violent, most insane, most delusive, and most transient of passions, they are required to swear that they will remain in that excited, abnormal, and exhausting condition continuously until death do them part."

George Bernard Shaw

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Candida in Context

Exploring Ideas and Themes in Candida
By Erica Nagel

Christian Socialism

In Candida, Morell is a powerful speaker in both the religious and political arenas. His sermons focus on the teachings of the church as well on progressive socialist movements of the time. This blend of spiritual beliefs and political activism was known as Christian Socialism. The movement grew out of recognition of the disparity between Christian ideals and the societal effects of capitalism. Christian Socialist parties were usually led by religious leaders unlike other socialist unions and parties whose leaders were secular reformists.

The movement began in England in 1848, and was influenced greatly by Chartism, Fourierism and Henry George's single tax theory, rather than by the revolutionary communism proposed by Marx. Leaders such as Frederick Denison Maurice and Stewart Headlam encouraged the laboring masses and the church to cooperate against the dangers and inequities of capitalism.

The Christian Socialists published periodicals and essays, promoted workers unions, and founded a workingmen's college. Though the movement eventually dissolved, their traditions were carried on by the Fabian Society (of which George Bernard Shaw was a prominent member), the Guild Socialists, and by several Roman Catholic groups.

Shaw and The Fabian Society

Founded by Beatrice and Sidney Webb, the Fabian Society was a socialist political organization dedicated to transforming Britain into a socialist state, not by revolution, as Marx suggested, but by systematic progressive legislation, and educating a select few that actually had the political power to make a substantial difference. From these educated few, the Fabians believed, reforms would spread to the rest of society. The society released essays, written by famous Englishmen including George Bernard Shaw, and attracted prominent speakers in order to influence British intellectuals and government officials.

The Fabians believed that the system of capitalism had created an unjust and inefficient society of property and business owners. The reforms that the society fought for centered on the social ownership of monopolies and property; the Fabians believed that this would equally distribute wealth among all citizens. Shaw and other intellectuals spoke and wrote passionately about the goals and promises of the Fabians, and although Shaw disaffiliated from the group in the 1930's, he continued to support the London School of Economics and the Labor Party, two important offshoots of the Fabian Society.

"The Woman Question"

The "Woman Question" of the Early 20th century was the name given to the discussion of the changing roles of women in society. Disciplines as diverse as philosophy, theology, medicine, physics, and mathematics were applied to discovering the answers to questions such as: Should women be allowed to receive higher education? Should they be allowed to vote and take part in politics? Should women be employed equally with men in the business world? What about their role in relation to their husbands in the domestic sphere?

The term was coined by Stephan Leacock in his famous essay "The Woman Question" wherein he concluded that to burden a woman with voting rights or a career was cruel, due to her already overwhelming responsibilities in the home:

Women need not more freedom but less...To expect a woman, for example, if left by the death of her husband with young children without support, to maintain herself by her own efforts, is the most absurd mockery of freedom ever devised. Earlier generations of mankind, for all that they lived in the jungle and wore coconut leaves, knew nothing of it. To turn a girl loose in the world to work for herself, when there is no work to be had, or none at a price that will support life, is a social crime" (Leacock, 60).

George Bernard Shaw, on the other hand, was an avid proponent of women's freedom and suffrage, and argued that women, with their tendencies toward humility, Christianity, and compassion were ideal voters within a system of government that sorely lacked these qualities. Early Feminist groups such as the Women's Liberal Federation and the Women's Social and Political Union fought for the rights to vote, receive education, and work outside the home; usually, the goals of these organizations, coinciding with goals of other reform movements of the time, included improved medical care, socialized property ownership, and class equality.

Working Conditions

During the 1850's in Britain, a worker in a factory could make between two to three times more than they could as farm workers. Because of this shift, by the late 1800's huge numbers of English men, women, and children left farms and towns to live and work in an urban setting. This change drastically altered their lives as families were separated for up to 14 hours a day, sometimes with each family member in a different factory. Infant mortality rose dramatically due to neglect and malnourishment and children as young as seven were often victims of factory accidents.

Despite these hardships, workers continued to flood the labor market. With such an excess of available labor, manufacturers took advantage and lowered wages. During the late 1800's fine spinners of yarn made between 25 to 30 shillings a week. Coarse spinners made about 18 shillings a week. Weavers such as those employed in Burgess' factory made only about 10 shillings to 16 shillings a week, and children, who worked up to ten hours a day, took home 3 shillings to 4 shillings a week. At that time, a loaf of bread cost about 1 shilling.

As early as the 19th century some of the English recognized the harmful effects of unregulated factory work. Trade unions, workers guild, and political parties fought for reform by regulating working hours, safety standards, and wages. These liberal groups characterized the factory owners as greedy, uncaring, and amoral and urged the workers to unite in protection of their rights.

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Bernard Shaw Chronology

1856 - G. Bernard Shaw was born in Dublin, in a lower-middle class family of Scottish-Protestant ancestry. His father was a failed corn-merchant with a drinking problem; his mother was a professional singer, the sole disciple of Vandeleur Lee, a voice teacher claiming to have a unique and original approach to singing. Just before Shaw was sixteen, his mother left her husband and son and moved with Vandeleur Lee to London.

1876 - Shaw left Dublin and his father and moved to London. There he lived off of his mother and sister while pursuing a career in journalism and writing. He read voraciously, in public libraries and in the British Museum reading room. And he became involved in progressive politics. Standing on soapboxes, at Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park and at socialist rallies, he learned to overcome his stage fright and his stammer. And, to hold the attention of the crowd, he developed an energetic and aggressive speaking style that is evident in all of his writing.

1891 - Shaw wrote his first play, Widower's Houses. For the next twelve years, he wrote close to a dozen plays, though he generally failed to persuade the managers of the London theatres to produce them. A few were produced abroad; one (Arms and the Man) was produced under the auspices of an experimental management; one (Mrs. Warren's Profession) was censored by the Lord Chamberlain's Examiner of Plays.

1898 - After a serious illness, Shaw resigned as theatre critic, and moved out of his mother's house to marry Charlotte Payne-Townsend, an Irish woman of independent means. Their marriage (quite possibly sexually unconsummated) lasted until Charlotte's death in 1943.

1904 - Candida is the first of eleven Shaw plays to be produced at London's Court Theatre over the next three years.

1914 - The outbreak of World War I changed Shaw's life. For Shaw, the war represented the bankruptcy of the capitalist system, the last desperate gasps of the nineteenth-century empires, and a tragic waste of young lives, all under the guise of patriotism. He expressed his opinions in a series of newspaper articles under the title Common Sense About the War. These articles proved to be a disaster for Shaw's public stature: he was treated as an outcast in his adopted country, and there was even talk of his being tried for treason. His dramatic output ground to a halt, and he succeeded in writing only one major play during the war years, Heartbreak House, into which he projected his bitterness and despair about British politics and society. After the war, Shaw found his dramatic voice again and rebuilt his reputation, first with a series of five plays about "creative evolution," Back to Methuselah, and then with Saint Joan.

1925 - Shaw was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. (Not needing the money, he donated the cash award towards an English edition of the Swedish playwright August Strindberg, who had never been recognized with a Nobel prize by the Swedish Academy). Shaw's plays were now regularly produced and revived in London. In the late 1920s, a Shaw festival was established in England.

1950 - Shaw fell off a ladder and died a few days later of complications from the injury, at age 94. He had been at work on yet another play (Why She Would Not). In his will, he left a large part of his estate to a project to revamp the English alphabet.

Much of the above chronology is excerpted from Cary M. Mazer's biography of Shaw written for the University of Pennsylvania's theatre department. Cary M. Mazer is Associate Professor of Theatre Arts and English at the University of Pennsylvania, and Chair of the Theatre Arts Program. He was the acting dramaturg on their 2002 production of Major Barbara by Bernard Shaw.

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Shaw's Style & Imagination

The Style and Imagination of George Bernard Shaw
by Janice Paran

George Bernard Shaw

"It was clear from the start that Bernard Shaw was a man of ideas. Later it turned out that he was a fabulous entertainer. But few have granted that the two Shaws were one." - Eric Bentley

In the course of his 94 years, the Irish-born critic, dramatist and polemicist George Bernard Shaw took up a variety of causes and careers, achieving notoriety in most of them, excellence in some, and genius - albeit gradually and never less than controversially - in the one he modestly referred to as his "trade." Shaw the playwright, simultaneously smitten with the stage and incensed by the "tomfoolery" that passed for dramatic writing in his age, undertook its reform, creating an astonishingly diverse body of work (more than 30 major plays) whose intellectual rigor, comic sophistication, moral complexity, toothsome language and sheer theatrical savvy gave rise to a new word, Shavian, to describe the writer, his work, or anyone who ardently admires the same.

Shaw brought to his plays the same feistiness, drollery, and love of contrariness that marked his critical writing (he was an art, music and theater critic before he was a playwright), his public speaking career (he was famous the world over for his oratorical skills), and even his letter writing (by some estimates, he wrote ten letters every day of his adult life). He was a socialist, a teetotaler, a vegetarian, and a freethinker who approached all forms of received wisdom with the utmost skepticism. He cultivated his reputation as a high-profile punster and pundit, referring in the third-person to "G.B.S.," the celebrated reformer and gadfly who could be counted on to rail wittily against a variety of social, economic, political and cultural ills.

Among those ills, in his view, was the state of the English stage at the end of the 19th century. Shaw deplored two of its tendencies: its appetite for "well-made plays," the formulaic trifles popularized by the French playwright Eugene Sardou and his English imitators, and its over-reverence for anything written by Shakespeare (a practice Shaw dubbed "Bardolatry"). Inspired by revolutionary theatrical developments elsewhere in Europe - particularly Ibsen's daring decision to represent social ills in a newly realistic fashion in plays such as A Doll House and Ghosts, and the integrated stagecraft that galvanized audiences at Wagner's operas - Shaw embarked on his own playwriting career in 1892.

A List of Major Plays

Note: Dates reflect approximate dates of composition.

1892. Widower's Houses
1893. The Philanderer
1893. Mrs. Warren's Profession
1894. Arms and the Man
1894. Candida
1895. You Never Can Tell
1896. The Devil's Disciple
1898. Caesar and Cleopatra
1899. Captain Brassbound's Conversion
1901. The Admirable Bashville, or Constancy Unrewarded
1903. Man and Superman
1904. How He Lied to Her Husband
1904. John Bull's Other Island
1905. Major Barbara
1906. The Doctor's Dilemma
1907. Don Juan in Hell
1908. Getting Married
1910. Misalliance
1910. The Dark Lady of the Sonnets
1912. Androcles and the Lion
1913. Pygmalion
1916. Heartbreak House
1923. Saint Joan (Nobel Prize winner)
1929. The Apple Cart
1932. Too Good to be True. A Political Extravaganza.
1936. The Millionairess

A dozen years and as many plays later, Shaw was still forced to describe himself as "an unperformed playwright in London," despite a resumé that included Widowers' Houses, The Philanderer, Mrs. Warren's Profession, Arms and the Man, Candida, The Man of Destiny, You Never Can Tell, The Devil's Disciple, Caesar and Cleopatra and Man and Superman. His penchant for social analysis, coupled with a healthy irreverence for conventional dramatic values and bourgeois morality, kept theater producers at bay, and Shaw turned to readings, private productions and publication of his plays to cultivate an audience for his work. The tide finally began to turn in 1904, when the actor, director and playwright Harley Granville Barker, along with his business partner J.E. Verdrenne, took over London's Court Theatre in a deliberate challenge to the commercial West End. Under their management, eleven of Shaw's plays - including Candida (with Granville Barker in the role of Marchbanks) and such new efforts as Major Barbara and The Doctor's Dilemma - were produced over the next three years. Shaw's reputation as a major new dramatist was finally secured, and given added luster by the 1914 commercial success of Pygmalion (which later inspired the musical My Fair Lady). Shaw maintained his international celebrity for the rest of his long life - though his popularity in England plummeted for a time following his criticism of England's entry into World War I - and he contributed at least two more masterpieces (Heartbreak House and Saint Joan) to an already daunting oeuvre. He continued to write, provocatively and prodigiously, until his death in 1950.

Shaw's stature today as a "classic playwright" tends to obscure the essentially revolutionary nature of his writing, which is as seditious as it is entertaining. A dab hand at drawing room dialogue that is ebullient, surprising, literate, and lethal, Shaw enjoyed having his cake and eating it too: seducing audiences with his cleverness and craft while assailing their habits of mind. He was often charged with didacticism, with wearing his various reformist agendas on his sleeve, but he was less interested in promulgating a particular point of view than he was in putting a variety of viewpoints through their paces, rigorously and argumentatively and with a good deal of humor. Antitheses, naturally, abound: in Major Barbara, a munitions manufacturer outpaces his do-gooder daughter when it comes to helping the poor; in Pygmalion, a flower-seller demonstrates better manners than her university-educated mentor; in Candida, an immature poet proves more than a match for a charismatic clergyman in matters of the heart.

Shaw's purpose, always, as the critic Eric Bentley has pointed out, was to investigate the relation between ideas and reality, or, more accurately, between idealism and realism. Exposing hypocrisy was not his goal; rather, he hoped to demonstrate how human beings are hoodwinked by their own unconsidered actions and the beliefs they profess to hold. An enemy of second-hand thinking in all its guises, Shaw deployed his chastening fierce wit in retaliation, as his speeches and pamphlets and prefaces attest. But it is on the stage that Shaw's passionate intelligence lives most fully, and the pleasure of his plays, still, is the pleasure of watching his characters discover who they really are, not through the agency of the plot, but through the exercise of their minds and the movement of their souls.

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Who's Who in the Production

Jeffrey Carlson
Kate Forbes
Polly Lee
Robert Langdon Lloyd
Michael Milligan
Michael Siberry

Production Team
DirectorLisa Peterson
Set DesignNeil Patel
Costume DesignMichael Krass
Lighting DesignDavid Weiner
Sound DesignMark Bennett
Line ProducerLisa McNulty
DramaturgJanice Paran
Production Stage ManagerAlison Cote
Assistant Stage ManagerJoe Lumia

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Talking with Lisa Peterson

Lisa Peterson was last at the McCarter Theatre in 2000, when she directed Polly Pen's The Night Governess. Before rehearsals for Candida started, Lisa took the opportunity to talk to the staff of the McCarter Theatre about her vision and ideas in approaching this piece. The following are excerpts from that discussion.

On Shaw

On Candida

George Bernard Shaw

The Quotable Bernard Shaw

"There are two tragedies in life: one is not to get your heart's desire. The other is to get it."

George Bernard Shaw

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Spotlight on Scenic Design

Well before the first rehearsal of any show, the design team for the production develops its ideas for the overall look and feel of the play. The job of the set designer is to create a physical world for the play to exist within. This world reflects not only the plot line of the play, but also the central themes and images that are essential to the director's vision of the production. Elements of a set will vary from production to production; some plays require realistic sets of specific locations, such as the interior of a house or the gates of a palace. When a designer is creating a realistic set he or she must take every detail into consideration. What colors would the characters have used to decorate this room? What is the time period of the play? What entrances and exits are needed to support the text? How will the furniture, hand props and set decorations reveal important information about the characters? The designer makes decisions about all of these questions and more as he or she researches, sketches, drafts and builds models of the set in preparation for the production.

Set Design by Neil Patel inspired by William Morris's wall paper

William Morris's painting "Compton"

Director Lisa Peterson discussed the idea of making Morell's study, where the play is set, an earthly paradise, somewhere below Heaven and above Hell.

"There's a lot of language in the play about heaven on earth, or paradise. And there's a lot of Christian imagery in the play. I wanted to present the idea of a garden, the Garden of Eden, this retreat, and this kind of paradise that Morell thinks he lives in. I was thinking a lot about Adam and Eve and the snake. So that's what we started to play with."

Shaw describes this play as a modern pre-Raphaelite play. The designers looked at the work of William Morris, a direct descendant of the Pre-Raphaelites, for inspiration. Morris' work used images from nature, which suited the idea of an environment akin to the Garden of Eden.

The Pre-Raphaelites
William Morris was one of the founders of the Arts and Crafts Movement and closely involved with the Pre-Raphaelite artists of the mid-19th century. His ideal of integrating art, literature and graphic design inspired a generation of artists like Rossetti, Burne-Jones, Millais and Waterhouse. Morris was an artist, poet, writer and designer himself. He is probably best remembered for his fabric designs and his book designs for Kelmscott Press. He pioneered modern renderings of antique styles of type as well as the production of high-quality home furnishings to last for generations. Morris left behind a lasting legacy of quality and creativity which will continue to inspire artists for years to come.

William Morris

George Bernard Shaw

The Quotable Bernard Shaw

"My way of joking is to tell the truth. It is the funniest joke in the world."

George Bernard Shaw

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Drama in the Classroom

This study guide enables leaders to explore drama as a mode of learning. Adding drama to the classroom is an active, process-orientated approach to education, in which the teacher and student interact together.

Drama-in-Education seeks to synthesize the activities of creative drama, arts-based curricula and theatre conventions into experiences aimed at developing imagination, awareness of self and others, aesthetic taste and life skills. Often these goals are achieved through the examination of a particular theme or topic, which contributes to critical thinking about the world in which we live. By providing structures and contexts, which both excite the interest of participants and call for creative problem-solving, Drama-in-Education promotes deeper thinking about a wide variety of issues.

This guide has been designed for teachers to utilize drama methods in an exploration of the themes and situations presented in the play. We encourage you to adapt these lessons and activities to your individual teaching situations, and thereby to discover the importance and power of drama in the classroom.

The following questions and activities are designed to help students anticipate the performance and then to build on their impressions and interpretations after attending the theatre. While most of the exercises provide specific instructions, please feel free to adapt these activities to accommodate your own teaching strategies and curricular needs.

Pre-Show Questions

1. Brainstorm a list of ideas and emotions that are associated with marriage. What thoughts, phrases, or memories are important for you? Choose one idea or emotion from the list created and write a short passage inspired by that thought. What themes or emotions are highlighted in this passage? What themes or emotions may be brought up in a play where a married woman is force to make a choice?

2. A woman must decide between her husband and a younger suitor. Explore the different possible outcomes. What would be the most dramatic situation to watch? How can the idea of status come into play? Have your students write a short story about three different couples meeting at the same place. Remember that dynamic characters and dramatic relationships may make a more interesting story.

3. Examine the Character Profiles in this guide and ask your students how they imagine each character will look, act, speak. Improvise scenes between two characters and explore their different relationships. Have students write about their experiences playing these characters.

4. To get an idea of the flow of action, read the Plot Summary provided in this guide. Then imagine that you are designing the set for this play. What would be your design concept, the visual idea that ties the whole production together? Is there a feeling or emotion that you would want to express through your design of this production? How would your design concept differ from that of the designs being done at McCarter Theatre? Prepare a design presentation for your class through drawings, visual aides or writing. Be prepared to field your classmates' questions about your design choices.

Post-Show Questions

1. What surprised you the most in your viewing of Candida? How did this production compare to your expectations?

2. George Bernard Shaw's characters talk a lot about love and happiness and their hopes on achieving them. What do you think Shaw is saying about love? Do you feel that he is giving a clear opinion on the matter?

3. Consider the character of Candida. Can you relate to and understand the choice that she must make? While viewing the performance, what decision did you suspect she would make? Do you think she made the right one?

4. Consider each character in Candida. What are their specific wants at the beginning of the play? Do they achieve these desires by the end of the play? What choices do they make, and what tactics do they use to obtain these wants?

5. In Candida, Marchbanks states that:

"We all go about longing for love: it is the first need of our natures, the first prayer of our hearts; but we dare not utter our longing: we are too shy."

Choose one character in the play and discuss how his/her longing for love affects his/her actions throughout the play. Are there times in your own life when you have done something dramatic out of this same longing?

Enhance the Performance: Drama Praxis

Drama praxis refers to the manipulation of theatre form by educational leaders to help participants act, reflect and transform. At the core of drama praxis is the artful interplay between people, passion, and space as leaders and participants strive towards aesthetic understanding.

Drama in education is a mode of learning. This form can be utilized across the curriculum and serves as a useful tool to teach all lessons with a dramatic skew. Through the pupils' active identification with imagined roles and situations in drama, they can learn to explore issues, events and relationships. In drama, participants can delve into circumstances in role as a character other than themselves. This distance allows the participant to experience metaxis, which is the ability to explore a situation through a character's eyes while also seeing its relevance in the participant's everyday life.

The following exercises will allow students to participant in the process of drama. This process can be fleshed out and enchanted into a 'theatre' product. Again, please feel free to adapt these activities to accommodate your own teaching strategies and curricular needs.

1. Text to Text: Compare the text of Candida to another text that you have read. Are there similar themes, ideas or plot lines that resonate in Candida that are prevalent in other texts? Discuss how the same themes or ideas are explored in different texts. For example, Candida is strained over the decision to choose between Marchbanks and Morell. In what other play must someone choose between two lovers?

2. Hot-Seating: Choose one student to take on the role of one of the characters. Have the other students question and interrogate this character on the actions and choices this character has made. Have the class come up with several statements that could be said about this character and the choices they made.

3. Candida: The Sequel: When the play ends, Candida has decided to stay with Morell. What paths do you feel their story will take? What is to become of Marchbanks? Brainstorm several different possibilities for these three characters and then write a scene that takes place one year later. What constraints on the relationship can be inserted to add to the dramatic tension of the relationship? Consider an alternate ending. How might life be if Candida had chosen Marchbanks?

4. Role on the Wall: Draw an outline of two people on the chalkboard. Label one Marchbanks and the other Morell. Have the students list characteristics of these characters. Write down these adjectives in the correct outline. Based on these characteristics, have an in class debate as to whom Candida is best suited for.

5. Tableaux: Participants create a frozen picture which serves to crystallize an idea or to communicate a concrete image. These images may be brought to life or 'thought-tracked' by having individuals speak their inner thoughts. Have several students create a family portrait tableau. In what way can the students portray these characters' thoughts and emotions through only this frozen picture? Keep the frozen portrait. Have each student talk in role as their character about the other members of the family.

Tips and Hints For Improvising Scenes

Here are some helpful guidelines for improvising scenes with your students. Improvising scenes are a remarkable way to explore characters and their actions.

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Additional Sources

If you would like further information please look through any of the following sources which have been used in preparing this guide.


Chesterton, G.K. George Bernard Shaw. Oxford: House of Stratus Inc, 1956.

King, Preston. Socialism and the Common Good: New Fabian Essays. New York: Frank Cass Publications, 1995.

Holroyd, Michael. The Genius of Shaw. New York: Hodder & Stoughton General Division, 1979.

Shaw, George Bernard. Four Plays: Arms and the Man, Candida, Man and Superman, and Mrs. Warren's Profession. New York: Dover Publishing, 1976.

Shaw, George Bernard. The Portable Bernard Shaw. Ed. Stanley Weintraub. New York: Viking Penguin, 1977.


George Bernard Shaw

The Quotable Bernard Shaw

"The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them; that's the essence of inhumanity."

George Bernard Shaw

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