Bernard Shaw: A Critical View by Nicholas Grene (auth.)

By Nicholas Grene (auth.)

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What is more, sometimes Shaw even follows Shakespeare in the bathetic treatment of Caesar of which he ostensibly disapproved. An obvious feature of Shakespeare's portrait of Julius Caesar is the technique by which every boastful assertion of superiority is punctured by a reminder of physical frailty. But Shaw is not above using Caesar's baldness as Shakespeare used his deafness; and there is nothing so devastatingly anticlimactic in Julius Caesar as the unseen and unidentified Cleopatra's interruption of Caesar's grandly pretentious address to the Sphinx: My way hither was the way of destiny; for I am he of whose genius you are the symbol: part brute, part woman, and part god - nothing of man in me at all.

And for the same reason that Shaw denied the irredeemable suffering of tragedy, he was not really interested in the irremediable characters Bernard Shaw: a Critical View of comedy. Most of the standard comic figures, with their idees fixes and their monomanias, are by definition incapable of change or development. Shaw could use such comic types to brilliant effect, but they were never central and they were always supposed to be subordinated to the characters whose progress forward was the mainspring of the play.

Now I'll tell you something. I never really loved him [Anderson] before: I only pretended to, like most wives. He never could have taught me himself what love is. But you taught me. And now I love him. Isn't that funny? Richard: Quite right. He is a better man than I am. Bernard Shaw: a Critical View Judith: But I wish I could have taught you to love too. Is that wicked, do you think? Richard: If it is, then I shall always remain the Devil's Disciple. Essie: Oh do, dear Dick, please. 5 But he abandoned this as hopeless and ended the play instead, after the briefest of exchanges between Dick and Judith, with a triumphant crowd-scene and Dick chaired from the market-place.

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