In his play Candida, George Bernard Shaw offers two male characters who love the title character, a smart, beautiful woman. While the men have many basic similarities, the differences between them ultimately prove more important in Candida’s choosing between them. Both are English, presumably white, adults, and both have strongly held principles. In slightly different ways, both men are self-centered.
James Morell is Candida’s husband; of the two, he is older and more established in life. A clergyman devoted to social projects as well as good works, Morell is an accomplished scholar, author, and speaker. He trust his wife’s judgment, especially in running the household, and often defers to her advice. In part because she seems so effortlessly competent, he tends to take her for granted. Morell is not particularly romantic or demonstrative, but he deeply loves his wife.
Eugene Marchbanks is a poet who has fallen head-over-heels in love with the older woman. At age 18, impractically idealistic and romantic, he is sure that love is enough to live on. Convinced that his passion will sway her, he confesses his love to both Morell and Candida, and then seems surprised that she is not eager to run off with him. His impetuous nature, however appealing, does not offer a solid basis for a sustained relationship. Candida dismisses him with the explanation that he seems self-sufficient, while her husband needs her.