Candida: A Mystery is included among “Plays: Pleasant” in George Bernard Shaw’s first collection of plays, Plays: Pleasant and Unpleasant (1898). Like each of the other “Plays: Pleasant” (Arms and the Man, The Man of Destiny, and You Never Can Tell), Candida presents a youthful figure whose informal moral reflections help other characters to understand their lives better. This youth is the nervous eighteen-year-old nobleman Eugene, who returns with Candida to her house and husband in London. Candida’s husband is the socialist reverend Morell, a famous speaker who also runs his household in an egalitarian fashion; since there is only one maid, Morell, his wife, and his secretary assume some of the household chores. Morell seems very much in control of his world until Eugene tells him that he (Eugene) is in love with Candida and that she is probably repulsed by Morell. Eugene’s revelation and reflections undermine Morell’s apparent security and control and show his fragility. An additional complication arises when Morell’s despised father-in-law, the unscrupulous businessman Burgess, comes to talk to Morell for the first time in three years. Burgess is appalled at Morell’s suggestion that they would get along fine if they agreed to be honest with each other. Morell should openly consider Burgess a scoundrel and Burgess should openly call Morell a fool.
Morell and Eugene ask Candida to choose between...
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