In George Bernard Shaw’s play, the resolution rests on the decision that the title character, Candida Morell, makes about her future with a man. Candida is a wife and mother who cares deeply about her family, including her husband, James. This being the case, she does admit that her husband does not always adequately show or express his appreciation for her. A few strains of romanticism are evident in the fact that she entertains, however briefly, a younger man’s declarations of passionate love for her. However, she finally dismisses Eugene Marchbanks. Not only that, she carefully lays out—for both him and her husband—the reasons that she is rejecting the young poet and staying with her husband. Passion for James is not her primary motivation. The depth of her love for him includes her sensibility to their mutual interdependence and her desire to shelter him from outside aggravations.
In Act III, when Marchbanks and Candida are alone together, it becomes clear that she does not take his declarations of love seriously. She teasingly says,
Come and sit down on the hearth-rug, and talk moonshine as you usually do. I want to be amused.
Shaw’s stage direction says that her attitude is respectful toward his passion, but maternal. Candida tells him that if he can convey genuine emotion, she will listen to him, but has no tolerance for empty displays..
[Y]ou may say anything you really and truly feel…. I am not afraid, so long as it is your real self that speaks, and not a mere attitude.
Later after Morell enters, the men argue over her until she loses her patience at being discussed like an object. Her dismissal of empty romantic sentiments becomes sarcastic, as Eugene claims he would die for her.
MARCHBANKS. I would die ten times over sooner than give you a moment's pain.
CANDIDA (with infinite contempt for this puerility). Much good your dying would do me!
Finally, when she clarifies that she absolutely will not go with Marchbanks, she does so in anything but romantic terms. Rather, the fact that she and Morell both place their concern for each other over their own needs is what matters. Eugene, she explains, is looking to her to fill a void in his life, and privileges passion over mutual respect.