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The Man of Destiny

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The Man of Destiny

by George Bernard Shaw

Genre: Comedy
Format of Original Source:
Recommended Adaptation Length: 90 Minutes

Candidate for Adaptation? Promising


A young Napoleon meets his match in a mercenary revolutionist who happens to be not only his enemy, but a woman. An epic battle over some intercepted letters ensues in a volatile cat and mouse game.
an excerpt:
LADY. At you, General. I have often seen persons of your sex getting into a pet and behaving like children; but I never saw a really great man do it before.

NAPOLEON (brutally, flinging the words in her face). Pooh: flattery! flattery! coarse, impudent flattery!

LADY (springing up with a bright flush in her cheeks). Oh, you are too bad. Keep your letters. Read the story of your own dishonor in them; and much good may they do you. Good-bye. (She goes indignantly towards the inner door.)

NAPOLEON. My own–! Stop. Come back. Come back, I order you. (She proudly disregards his savagely peremptory tone and continues on her way to the door. He rushes at her; seizes her by the wrist; and drags her back.) Now, what do you mean? Explain. Explain, I tell you, or–(Threatening her. She looks at him with unflinching defiance.) Rrrr! you obstinate devil, you. Why can’t you answer a civil question?

LADY (deeply offended by his violence). Why do you ask me? You have the explanation.


LADY (pointing to the letters on the table). There. You have only to read it. (He snatches the packet up, hesitates; looks at her suspiciously; and throws it down again.)

NAPOLEON. You seem to have forgotten your solicitude for the honor of your old friend.

LADY. She runs no risk now: she does not quite understand her husband.

NAPOLEON. I am to read the letter, then? (He stretches out his hand as if to take up the packet again, with his eye on her.)

LADY. I do not see how you can very well avoid doing so now. (He instantly withdraws his hand.) Oh, don’t be afraid. You will find many interesting things in it.

NAPOLEON. For instance?

LADY. For instance, a duel–with Barras, a domestic scene, a broken household, a public scandal, a checked career, all sorts of things.

NAPOLEON. Hm! (He looks at her, takes up the packet and looks at it, pursing his lips and balancing it in his hand; looks at her again; passes the packet into his left hand and puts it behind his back, raising his right to scratch the back of his head as he turns and goes up to the edge of the vineyard, where he stands for a moment looking out into the vines, deep in thought. The Lady watches him in silence, somewhat slightingly. Suddenly he turns and comes back again, full of force and decision.) I grant your request, madame. Your courage and resolution deserve to succeed. Take the letters for which you have fought so well; and remember henceforth that you found the vile, vulgar Corsican adventurer as generous to the vanquished after the battle as he was resolute in the face of the enemy before it. (He offers her the packet.)


A delightful one-act play, filled with strategm and manipulation. The challenge will be to keep the score varied. (Cast of three.)


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