The overeager young poet Eugene Marchbanks has fallen for Candida Morell in a big way. He puts her on a pedestal; he treats her like a goddess; he's convinced himself that his love for her is truly divine. For her part, Candida encourages Eugene's attentions, not least because she's a tad jealous of the effect her husband James's preaching seems to have on the ladies of the congregation—and not only them, but his secretaries too, like Prossy, who used to perform all manner of menial jobs around the house for the Reverend Morell in return for a pittance. Candida suggests that she only did this because she was in love with him.
However, Candida soon changes her tune and claims that she was only kidding. She is jealous, she says, not for herself, but for someone else who isn't as loved as he ought to be. Morell thinks his wife might be referring to himself, but she actually means Eugene. James, on the other hand, is positively spoiled with love, says Candida; he gets far too much of it. And not just love, but worship too. Candida is referring not just to the love that she gives to her husband, but that which he's received from the ladies of the congregation and his former secretaries. It is Eugene, she claims, who needs love so much more than James. It's simply unfair that all the love should go to James and none to Eugene.