Candida by George Bernard Shaw

A Brief Assessment

The play Candida is written by George Bernard Shaw. Candida is the name of the central figure of the play. The word Candida is derived from the adjective ‘candid’, which means frank and truthful The major characters of the play are Candida, Reverend James Mavor Morell, and Eugene Marchbanks. The minor characters of the play are Burgess, Miss Proserpine Garnett, and Reverend Alexander Mills (Lexy).

Morell is a clergyman. He is Candida’s husband. He believes that he is leading a perfect married life with his wife. Candida is a self-confident, strong-headed woman. She believes in herself. She is always guided by her head, not by her heart. She performs her domestic duties properly.

Marchbanks is a poet of great moral and intellectual strength. He enters the house of Morell and Candida as a guest. He challenges Morell’s belief of a perfect marriage with Candida. He threatens Morell because he believes that Morell tortures Candida and she is unhappy in her married life.Shaw in his plays gives a long description of characters and the stage so that people can understand the ideas of the writer. Candida is an interesting play with a different twist in a regular story of love and marriage. The last act of the play is important and leads the play to a new discussion.

Short Summary

Candida was written in 1894 and first published in 1898 as part of George Bernard Shaw’s Plays Pleasant. Candida was a propagandist, and the name suggests that Shaw was going to deal with “the Woman Issue,” – a burning issue in the late Victorian society. In this regard, the word ‘Cadida’ has a special symbolic meaning. Furthermore, as A. C. Ward points out, the play’s original title was Candida: A Mystery, and the mystery element contributes more to the significance to the title.

Candida looks at late-Victorian marriage and the relationship between husband and wife. Candida Morell, a glamorous and charming woman married to Reverend James Morell, a devout Christian socialist, is at the centre of the storey. Eugene Marchbanks, a young idealistic poet who Morell discovered sleeping on the Embankment in London, has been taken in by the couple. As Marchbanks declares his passionate love for Morell’s wife, Candida finds herself in the middle of a tug-of-war between the two men. When Marchbanks challenges Morell to doubt Candida’s love for him and the true state of his marriage, the crisis reaches a head.

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Marchbanks believes Candida is deserving of his undying love and devotion, pointing out that she is well above household responsibilities and domestic standards. Morell, on the other hand, considers his wife to be in need of his safety and treatment. Candida, however, does not live up to either man’s standards. Finally, she declares her affection for and obligation to her husband, the “weaker of the two.” Morell is the man who needs her safety and consideration, who is selfless enough to step aside when he suspects she is in love with another, and to whom Candida wishes to be “the sum of all loving care.” Search for detailed Summary of Candida.

Characters In Candida


Married to the Reverend James Morell. Combining the attractions of youth and motherhood, she is at the peak of her beauty. Candida is likeable, charismatic, intelligent and confident. She is the propagandist of the play and has been called Shaw’s representation of the “ideal woman.” On the surface, she appears to be a young (thirty-three) woman who is intelligent, physically attractive, kind, efficient, sensitive, loving, and supportive, as well as a good wife and mother. Candida is not all of these things at the same time. Her kindness is fleeting, and her sensitivity is limited to those who are close to her. By shielding her husband from reality, she has created a successful (and probably happy) marriage. She has shown him respect while having little regard for what he thought he was attempting to achieve. Candida portrays herself as a newly emancipated woman. She openly opposes her husband’s sermons. Again, she is steadfastly dutiful in upholding traditional female behaviour. She never refuses her wifely responsibilities. Marchbanks is a fiery romantic who cares deeply about Candida.

The Reverend Alexander Mill

The Reverend Alexander (Lexy) Mill is a young curate with an Oxford education. He is well-intentioned, enthusiastic and immature, with a doglike devotion to Morell. He is intellectually dishonest and thoroughly obnoxious, at least in my opinion. Morell has been won over “by a dog like devotion.” Burgess is a businessman who is ignorant, shallow, greedy, bigoted, and completely unconcerned about the feelings of those around him. (I find it difficult to believe Candida could have been conceived and raised by such a jerk.) His role in the play is to highlight Morell’s self-righteousness by allowing him to pontificate on his father-in- law’s greed. Finally, there’s Proserpine Garnett, Morell’s secretary, who has what Candida refers to as “Prossy’s complaint.” Prossy is a lonely 30-year-old lower-middle-class woman who adores Morell but will never admit it to herself. Morell’s influence on others is defined by her.

Eugene Marchbanks

A young poet in love with Candida. He is attractive and shy, painfully sensitive, rather unworldly, but nevertheless possesses a sharp, incisive mind. He is estranged from his aristocratic parents.

Marchbanks is pathetic. Shaw describes him using the word “sensitiveness” rather than “sensitive.” It’s fitting, because the only emotions Marchbanks experiences are his own. Youth may excuse his arrogance – his belief that he can almost dictate Candida’s feelings – but I see no way to excuse his viciousness toward Morell, his contempt for the other characters, or the brutality of his demand that Candida choose between them. Marchbanks is a poet because Shaw says he is. However, poetry, like all art, is a gift, and Marchbanks is a taker.

Marchbanks is adamant about his own morality and righteousness. However, he is a coward who can only express himself brutally.Morell is completely convinced of his own righteousness and rectitude, and he cannot hear unless he is beaten over the head. Candida makes Eugene’s decision – she chooses her husband – but only after emphasising to Morell that he is the weaker of the two.

The Reverend James Morell

A Christian Socialist and Church of England clergyman. James is a good looking, charismatic, popular man, much in demand as a public speaker. Although he does not appear vain, he is unconsciously quite pleased with himself. He considers himself happily married to his wife Candida, whom he adores.

Proserpine (Prossy) Garnett

Prossy is a small and rather plain lower middle class woman with a rather abrupt manner, who works as Morell’s typist. She is unmarried but secretly in love with Morell.

Mr Burgess

Candida’s father. He is a coarse, ignorant, self-made man, pompous and pushy. Successful in business, he respects only money.

Themes of Candida

The play’s main theme of the play is that women should be able to choose for themselves how to balance security and independence, domesticity and limitless creativity. Candida is a powerful female character who speaks and acts in a “candid” or frank manner. In the end, she chooses to focus on the man who wants her the most, her husband Morrell, rather than the life that is more viscerally convincing. By the end of the play, she has made up her mind when she says: “I give myself to the weaker of the two.”

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The issues are infinitely complex and contentious. Shaw later wrote in his book Man and Superman, “Those who talk about the blessings of marriage and the constancy of its vows are the very people who declare that if the chain were broken and the prisoners were left free to choose, the whole social fabric would fly asunder. You can’t have the argument both ways.” Shaw has ruthlessly exposed the loss of freedom and tyranny that married women face. Eugene, Candida’s young lover, declares that she wants “reality, truth, and freedom,” with the truth being the truth about her marriage and freedom from the bond that binds her to her moralising husband. Shaw’s goal with this portrayal of Candida’s domestic life on Eugene is to demonstrate that her dutiful,respectable, and noble-minded husband is actually a bore and a tyrant, despite his regard for her as his “treasure.”

Multiple Choice Questions of Candida

1. James Morell is a popular
a. politician,
b. actor,
c. pastor.

2. Prossy, Morell’s secretary, complains that he makes a fool of himself by praising his

a. wife,
b. father-in-law,
c. children too much.

3. Prossy is secretly in love with
a. Burgess,
b. Morell,
c. Lexy.

4. Burgess is impressed with Eugene Marchbanks because the young poet is
a. idealistic,
b. an aristocrat,
c. a Christian Socialist)

5. Marchbanks surprises Morell by announcing that he is in love with
a. Prossy,
b. the maid,
c. Candida.

6. Marchbanks wants to rescue Candida from the way of life and ideas of her
a. friends,
b. parents,
c. husband.

7. Burgess thinks everybody in the Morell household is
a. impolite,
b. mad,
c. wonderful.

8. Morell and Marchbanks decide that Candida must
a. choose between them,
b. go on holiday,
c. hire another maid.

9. Candida stays with her husband because he
a. is more intelligent than Marchbanks,
b. understands her better,
c. is weaker and needs her more.

10. At the end of the play Marchbanks is convinced that he is
a. stronger and freer,
b. more practical,
c. more religious than Morell and Candida.

Answer Key:

  1. c, 2. a, 3. b, 4. b, 5. c, 6. c, 7. b, 8. a, 9.c, 10. a

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