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Last Updated on January 16, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 853

Candida Morell

Candida is the charming and supportive wife of the Reverend James Morell. Stage directions describe her as thirty-three and “well built, well nourished… now quite at her best, with the double charm of youth and motherhood.” She is the object of affection of both her husband—the Reverend James...

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Candida Morell

Candida is the charming and supportive wife of the Reverend James Morell. Stage directions describe her as thirty-three and “well built, well nourished… now quite at her best, with the double charm of youth and motherhood.” She is the object of affection of both her husband—the Reverend James Mavor Morell—and a young poet named Eugene Marchbanks. Candida is practical, hardworking, and maternal: she cares for others’ feelings and pities both Morell and Marchbanks. 

Though Morell believes he must protect and defend Candida, Candida is driven to explain that she is really the one protecting and defending him. When asked to choose between Marchbanks and Morell, Candida chooses Morell. She knows that although both men are in need of love, Morell needs her more, because he has been spoiled all his life and is far weaker than he knows. Candida explains to Morell and Marchbanks that as Morell’s wife, she is his “mother and three sisters… and mother to his children all in one.” Morell, realizing this for perhaps the first time, gladly affirms it.

 The Reverend James Mavor Morell

The Reverend Morell is a socialist, a clergyman of the Church of England, and Candida’s husband. He is “robust and goodlooking, full of energy, with pleasant, hearty, considerate manners, and a sound, unaffected voice.” He is an extremely busy man, and his lecturing skills are in high demand. As a child, Morell was spoiled by his family, and he is ignorant of the fact that his wife has allowed for his current success through her constant support and care. 

When Morell observes Candida’s affection for Marchbanks, he fears that he is losing his wife. Marchbanks puts Candida’s affections to the test: he leaves her and Marchbanks at home alone while he gives a lecture. When this test proves inconclusive and Candida has not shown a clear preference, Morell and Marchbanks demand that Candida choose between them. Candida asks the two men to “bid” on her, and Morell offers Candida his strength and provision; however, Candida ultimately chooses Morell because she knows he is weak and needs her help more than Marchbanks. Morell discovers at this point how dependent he is on Candida and how vital she has been to his success. When he finally realizes this, Morell exclaims, “It’s all true, every word. What I am you have made me with the labor of your hands and the love of your heart!”

Eugene Marchbanks

Eugene Marchbanks is an eighteen-year-old poet whom Morell once found sleeping outside and brought home. He is the nephew of an earl and very timid: he fears meeting strangers, open conversation, and tipping cab drivers. He has fallen passionately in love with Candida, idolizes her, and seeks to amuse her with flights of fancy. Marchbanks declares that Morell is not worthy of her, and Morell grows angry and fearful. 

Marchbanks offers his “weakness,” “desolation,” and “heart’s need” to Candida as his “bid” for her love. Despite this petition for Candida’s love and pity, Candida chooses Morell, revealing that though Marchbanks is in need of love, Morell needs her more. Marchbanks willingly accepts Candida’s choice and leaves, remarking that the age difference between him and Candida would be nothing “in a hundred years” and wishing Morell happiness, for he has “filled the heart of the woman [Marchbanks] loves.”

Mr. Burgess

Mr. Burgess is Candida’s father, “a vulgar, ignorant, guzzling man” who does not get along with his son-in-law, Morell, and has not come to visit in three years. Three years prior to the events of the play, Morell convinced the county council to refuse a contract Burgess had proposed, and Morell accuses Burgess of paying his employees mere “starvation wages.” Burgess insists that he has changed his ways; however, Morell realizes he has only raised wages so that his contract would be accepted. Because of his often ruthless pragmatism, Burgess serves as a foil for the principled Morell. Nevertheless, Burgess and Morell shake hands and resolve their dispute. 

Miss Proserpine “Prossy” Garnett 

Proserpine is Morell’s typist, “a brisk little woman of about 30, of the lower middle class… not very civil in her manner, but sensitive and affectionate.” She responds sharply and critically to several of the play’s characters, notably Lexy, Marchbanks, and Burgess—and Morell appears to take great pleasure in Proserpine’s insults to Burgess. Though Proserpine insists she isn’t jealous, she tells Lexy that she doesn’t understand why Morell loves and praises his wife the way he does. Candida is not blind to Proserpine’s love for Morell, and she informs him that it is not just Proserpine who is in love with him: she asserts that all women have “Prossy’s complaint.” 

The Reverend Alexander “Lexy” Mill

Lexy is Morell’s devoted curate and a graduate of Oxford University. In describing Lexy, Shaw explains that Lexy has won Morell over “by a doglike devotion.” Though Lexy denies it, Proserpine claims that he imitates Morell, observing that he carries his umbrella and pronounces certain words the same way as Morell.

Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 538

Eugene Marchbanks

Eugene Marchbanks, an eighteen-year-old poet, the nephew of an earl. Having left Oxford, Marchbanks is found sleeping outdoors by Morell, who brings him home. Marchbanks proceeds to fall in love with Morell’s lovely wife, Candida. Marchbanks is slight, effeminate, frightened, and painfully sensitive, but he has the genuine poet’s insight into human motivations. He is sure that his own helplessness and inadequacy will prove irresistible to a woman so purely feminine as Candida. He is horrified that Candida must dirty her hands working around the house. Unable to understand what a woman could find to love in Morell, Marchbanks demands that Candida be given a chance to choose between them. When confronted with the choice, Candida says she chooses “the weakest.” Marchbanks at once understands why Candida loves Morell: He is even more in need of maternal care and pampering than is Marchbanks. Suddenly a man, Marchbanks leaves to get about his work, after thanking Morell for giving Candida so much opportunity to love.


Candida, the wife of the Reverend James Morell. She is attractive enough to charm men into doing her will, and her use of the feminine advantages is ennobled by dignity and intelligence. Taught by her husband to think for herself, Candida does so, to her husband’s distress. She suggests to him that perhaps she should make love to Marchbanks lest some bad woman do it and damage his spirit, but the occasion never arrives. When Morell leaves Candida alone with Marchbanks, the latter is afraid to speak and reads poetry to her.

The Reverend James Mavor Morell

The Reverend James Mavor Morell, a Christian Socialist clergyman of the Church of England. Vigorous and handsome, Morell is immensely in demand as a speaker for progressive causes. He is admired by men and adored by women. He is proud of his strength and competence and, until the end of the play, unaware of his absolute dependence on his wife. At last, he realizes that it is Candida, the personification of feminine urges, who is his protector and supporter. Becoming conscious of the true nature of her love for him, Morell avows that he is the product of her love.

Mr. Burgess

Mr. Burgess, Candida’s father, a vulgar and ignorant man who has grown rich in commerce. Burgess is instinctively respectful to people of rank. He frightens Marchbanks into near hysterics by trying to be friendly with him. Morell, a good Socialist, detests his father-in-law. Burgess thinks Morell is mad, but Morell’s political influence is useful to him, and he is patronizingly polite to his son-in-law.

Miss Proserpine Garnett

Miss Proserpine Garnett, Morell’s secretary. Efficient and affectionate, Proserpine is in love with Morell. Marchbanks unnerves her by trying to discover what a woman could find to love in a man like Morell. She causes the sensitive Marchbanks to break into tears. When Burgess reprimands her for annoying an earl’s nephew, Proserpine calls Burgess a fathead.

The Reverend Alexander (Lexy) Mill

The Reverend Alexander (Lexy) Mill, Morell’s enthusiastic young curate, newly out of Oxford, who follows Morell about with doglike devotion. He and Proserpine, both teetotalers, get drunk on Burgess’ champagne after one of Morell’s speeches.

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