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Major Barbara

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Major Barbara

by George Bernard Shaw

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

Candidate for Adaptation? Promising


One of Shaw’s masterpieces. The story of the daughter of an ammunition merchant who tries to save men’s souls through the Salvation Army, but sees how many more souls her father affects through the politics and economics of war.

An excerpt:UNDERSHAFT. Never mind, my dear. He thinks I have made you unhappy. Have I?

BARBARA. Do you think I can be happy in this vulgar silly dress? I! who have worn the uniform. Do you understand what you have done to me? Yesterday I had a man’s soul in my hand. I set him in the way of life with his face to salvation. But when we took your money he turned back to drunkenness and derision. [With intense conviction] I will never forgive you that. If I had a child, and you destroyed its body with your explosives–if you murdered Dolly with your horrible guns–I could forgive you if my forgiveness would open the gates of heaven to you. But to take a human soul from me, and turn it into the soul of a wolf! that is worse than any murder.

UNDERSHAFT. Does my daughter despair so easily? Can you strike a man to the heart and leave no mark on him?

BARBARA [her face lighting up] Oh, you are right: he can never be lost now: where was my faith?

CUSINS. Oh, clever clever devil!

BARBARA. You may be a devil; but God speaks through you sometimes. [She takes her father’s hands and kisses them]. You have given me back my happiness: I feel it deep down now, though my spirit is troubled.

UNDERSHAFT. You have learnt something. That always feels at first as if you had lost something.

BARBARA. Well, take me to the factory of death, and let me learn something more. There must be some truth or other behind all this frightful irony. Come, Dolly. [She goes out].

CUSINS. My guardian angel!


Great material. Before you plunge in and start adapting, you should research whether there a musical out there based on this play already. Rather, is there a GOOD one…?


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