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by George Bernard Shaw

Genre: Romance
Format of Original Source: Play
Recommended Adaptation Length:

Candidate for Adaptation? Promising


A young idealistic poet believes his passionate love for an older woman can lure her away from her devoted but dull husband. One of Shaw’s most romantic, bittersweet plays.

An excerpt:CANDIDA (with lively interest, leaning over to him with her arms on his knee). Eugene’s always right. He’s a wonderful boy: I have grown fonder and fonder of him all the time I was away. Do you know, James, that though he has not the least suspicion of it himself, he is ready to fall madly in love with me?

MORELL (grimly). Oh, he has no suspicion of it himself, hasn’t he?

CANDIDA. Not a bit. (She takes her arms from his knee, and turns thoughtfully, sinking into a more restful attitude with her hands in her lap.) Some day he will know when he is grown up and experienced, like you. And he will know that I must have known. I wonder what he will think of me then.

MORELL. No evil, Candida. I hope and trust, no evil.

CANDIDA (dubiously). That will depend.

MORELL (bewildered). Depend!

CANDIDA (looking at him). Yes: it will depend on what happens to him. (He look vacantly at her.) Don’t you see? It will depend on how he comes to learn what love really is. I mean on the sort of woman who will teach it to him.

MORELL (quite at a loss). Yes. No. I don’t know what you mean.

CANDIDA (explaining). If he learns it from a good woman, then it will be all right: he will forgive me.

MORELL. Forgive!

CANDIDA. But suppose he learns it from a bad woman, as so many men do, especially poetic men, who imagine all women are angels! Suppose he only discovers the value of love when he has thrown it away and degraded himself in his ignorance. Will he forgive me then, do you think?

MORELL. Forgive you for what?

CANDIDA (realizing how stupid he is, and a little disappointed, though quite tenderly so). Don’t you understand? (He shakes his head. She turns to him again, so as to explain with the fondest intimacy.) I mean, will he forgive me for not teaching him myself? For abandoning him to the bad women for the sake of my goodness–my purity, as you call it? Ah, James, how little you understand me, to talk of your confidence in my goodness and purity! I would give them both to poor Eugene as willingly as I would give my shawl to a beggar dying of cold, if there were nothing else to restrain me. Put your trust in my love for you, James, for if that went, I should care very little for your sermons–mere phrases that you cheat yourself and others with every day. (She is about to rise.)

MORELL. HIS words!

CANDIDA (checking herself quickly in the act of getting up, so that she is on her knees, but upright). Whose words?

MORELL. Eugene’s.

CANDIDA (delighted). He is always right. He understands you; he understands me; he understands Prossy; and you, James–you understand nothing. (She laughs, and kisses him to console him. He recoils as if stung, and springs up.)


Several attempts have been made to musicalize this play; including a fairly current one (Austin Pendleton). With the right music and adaptation, this romance could really soar. The original has everything: comedy, drama, and some of the most beautiful dialogue in the English theatre.


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