Numerous aspects of George Bernard Shaw’s play Candida support the assertion that it is an anti-romantic comedy. Love and romance play prominent roles in the play, which is largely concerned with the title character’s decision between two men who love her: her husband and a young suitor. The play has a happy ending for Candida and her husband, James Morell. However, Candida is mainly a social satire, not a romantic comedy. Shaw’s satiric intent serves to challenge the unthinking, effervescent romantic comedies of his day.
Although the passionate young poet Marchbanks is an appealing character in many ways, his ardor fails to win over Candida. Instead, she opts for a thoughtfully considered, mature course: to stay with her husband, who both loves and needs her. Candida is a sensible, clear-headed woman who is not won over by the adolescent poet’s heartfelt declarations of concern for her “soul.” Throughout the course of the play, it also becomes clear that Proserpine Garrett, Morell’s secretary, is in love with him. The fact that this plot is not further developed, and her passion does not precipitate his marriage breaking up, is also anti-romantic.
The socially relevant content and intellectual tendencies of the play also support its identification as anti-romantic, and even veering toward naturalism. Shaw includes some important social issues of the day, as Candida’s industrialist father, Mr. Burgess argues with Morell about work conditions and employee wages.