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John Bull’s Other Island

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John Bull’s Other Island

by George Bernard Shaw

Genre: Comedy
Format of Original Source: Play
Recommended Adaptation Length: Two Hours

Candidate for Adaptation? Not Likely


“John Bull” is England (like “Uncle Sam” is America); the Other Island is Ireland. Shaw’s play takes a pair of business partners, one British and one Irish, to spend time in Ireland. Predictably, the Brit is charmed; the Irishman isn’t. The Irishman has had a faithful lassie waiting for his return for over a decade. The Brit, as charmed by the lassie as by Ireland, proposes to her almost instantly, and to the surprise of everyone, she considers it seriously.

an excerpt:BROADBENT. If you really feel like that about him, there may be a chance for another man yet. Eh?

NORA [deeply offended]. I suppose people are different in England, Mr Broadbent; so perhaps you don’t mean any harm. In Ireland nobody’d mind what a man’d say in fun, nor take advantage of what a woman might say in answer to it. If a woman couldn’t talk to a man for two minutes at their first meeting without being treated the way you’re treating me, no decent woman would ever talk to a man at all.

BROADBENT. I don’t understand that. I don’t admit that. I am sincere; and my intentions are perfectly honorable. I think you will accept the fact that I’m an Englishman as a guarantee that I am not a man to act hastily or romantically, though I confess that your voice had such an extraordinary effect on me just now when you asked me so quaintly whether I was making love to you-

NORA [flushing] I never thought-

BROADHHNT [quickly]. Of course you didn’t. I’m not so stupid as that. But I couldn’t bear your laughing at the feeling it gave me. You–[again struggling with a surge of emotion] you don’t know what I- [he chokes for a moment and then blurts out with unnatural steadiness] Will you be my wife?

NORA [promptly]. Deed I won’t. The idea! [Looking at him more carefully] Arra, come home, Mr Broadbent; and get your senses back again. I think you’re not accustomed to potcheen punch in the evening after your tea.

BROADBENT [horrified]. Do you mean to say that I–I–I–my God! that I appear drunk to you, Miss Reilly?

NORA [compassionately]. How many tumblers had you?

BROADBENT [helplessly]. Two.

NORA. The flavor of the turf prevented you noticing the strength of it. You’d better come home to bed.

BROADBENT [fearfully agitated]. But this is such a horrible doubt to put into my mind–to–to–For Heaven’s sake, Miss Reilly, am I really drunk?

NORA [soothingly]. You’ll be able to judge better in the morning. Come on now back with me, an think no more about it. [She takes his arm with motherly solicitude and urges him gently toward the path].

BROADBENT [yielding in despair]. I must be drunk–frightfully drunk; for your voice drove me out of my senses [he stumbles over a stone]. No: on my word, on my most sacred word of honor, Miss Reilly, I tripped over that stone. It was an accident; it was indeed.


Much of the action of the play is a discussion about Home Rule (whether the Irish are fit to govern themselves), and the romance is fairly contrived. If you were to adapt this into a musical, you would need to do some beefing up of the love story to make it more believable, create a subplot, and retreat the political discussion to a distant background, as the Socialist diatribes are no longer very interesting.


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