Places Discussed

Ramsden’s office

Ramsden’s office. London workplace in which Jack Tanner works. As a bastion of ossified conservatism, the office becomes a symbol of Victorian social morality and an arena for Tanner’s ferocious assault on conventional values in act 1. Its stuffy respectability provides an obvious motive for Ann Whitefield’s display of her determination to subvert convention in pursuit of her aims.

Whitefield house

Whitefield house. Suburban home in Richmond, near London, used for an outdoor setting in act 2, that establishes the importance of the automobile for subsequent action and introduces the pragmatic outlook of the modern technological man, Henry Straker.

*Sierra Nevada

*Sierra Nevada. Spanish mountain range in which Mendoza’s comic opera bandits hide out in act 3. It evokes the atmosphere of Spain’s cultural Golden Age and inspires the “Don Juan in Hell” dream sequence, embodying Tanner’s vision of a philosophical Don Juan.


Hell. Act 3 is set either in an empty void in Hell or on Hell’s border. This austere setting presents Shaw’s new version of Hell, a forum for elegant philosophical debate by bodiless spirits outside of time.


*Granada. Province in southern Spain, where act 4 is set in the garden of a villa within sight of the famous Alhambra ruins of early Moorish occupation. Granada’s exotic ambience seems to inspire the emotional power of scenes that reveal the truth about Violet’s secret marriage and present the dramatic climax of Ann’s protracted pursuit of Tanner. The aura of Moorish Spain makes the passionate conflict of Ann and Tanner’s final scene, counterpointed by Shavian comedy, more credible.

Historical Context

Women’s Suffrage Movement
In 1889, Shaw considered running for public office as a Liberal candidate. His platform would...

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Literary Style

The Idea Play
Typical of nineteenth-century drama was the ‘‘parlor comedy,’’ which had its roots in the ‘‘comedy of...

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Compare and Contrast

1903: In Britain, women suffragettes take to the streets in protest marches. They also publish feminist newspapers in an effort to...

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Topics for Further Study

In what ways are Shaw’s heaven and hell different from conventional concepts of them? How do these differences inflect the meaning of the...

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Media Adaptations

The classic version of the Don Juan in Hell segment of Act III was recorded in the 1950s by actors Charles Laughton, Sir Cedric...

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What Do I Read Next?

Man and Superman has strong affinities to Mozart’s Don Giovanni, the opera on which Shaw based his play. The opera is worth...

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Bibliography and Further Reading

Evans, T. F. George Bernard Shaw: The Critical Heritage, Routledge, 1997.

Kronenberger, Louis....

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Crompton, Louis. “Man and Superman.” In Shaw the Dramatist. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1969. Discusses the play’s social, philosophical, and historical background. A clear presentation of Shaw’s ideas and their sources in the nineteenth century intellectual tradition.

Holroyd, Michael. Bernard Shaw. 3 vols. New York: Random House, 1988-1991. In the first two volumes of this detailed and indispensable biography—The Search for Love and The Pursuit of Power—Holroyd emphasizes Shaw’s musical structure in the play and shows how Shaw inverts popular conventions as part of his attack on...

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