George Bernard Shaw dominated the literary scene of the later part of the 19th century as a crusader for new ideas. His chief purpose was to emancipate human understanding from the obsessive appeal of emotion and passion. Being an iconoclast Shaw relished the idea of breaking old idols and propagating the new one. As an artist, he fought with determination against the falsehood of romantic notion and sentimental aptitude in dealing with serious issues of human life. Shaw’s long series of dramas exposes irrationality in thinking which makes the situation lazy and the solution to a problem becomes difficult. In Candida, Shaw takes up an old theme but gives it an interesting presentation to rouse and illumine the mind of his audience. The drama gives the impression of the old wine in new bottle and the off-quoted subject of eternal triangle of love but it meets a fresh treatment in the hands of Shaw. The traditional solution to the crisis arising from the clash of two men for a single woman veers round the display of strength which is obviously childish and even animality.
Shaw solves the riddle with a great insight which proves to be the maiden venture into an unknown territory. The end of the drama finds both the male characters saner, wiser and devoid of puzzling emotion and thought. Candida handles the situation with a rare rational skill typical of a Shavian heroine. Morell, a Christian socialist, suffers from self-smugness and thinks very highly of his sermons addressed to the Sunday congregation. Candida brings down the priest sowing ego by revealing the truth that people come only to hear his impassioned speech but it is incomplete meaning because he is not able to bring out any chance in them. The realization shakes his self-confidence and Mr. Morell grows up in his understanding. Despite a comfortable life, the big baby in Mr. Morell is a total misfit in leading an ordinary life without the help of his wife. Candida has built a castle of ease, indulgence and happiness with the care of a mother around the person.
No doubt, Candida economically depends on Mr. Morell but she is conscious of the fact that the chirpy preacher cannot keep on without the support of her strong shoulders. She is s prop to the climber, a prey to the parasite. The sudden arrival of a young lad in the conjugal life of Morell rings up an alarm-bell and the person becomes shaky. The poetic qualities in Eugene Marchbanks give momentum and add a new grace to his platonic love for the lady. His prayerful reverence for Candida makes him share the burden of domestic chores. The sight of Candida scrubbing floors and blackening hands with shoes and reading lamps jerks tears in the poet’s eyes. Utterly romantic in temperaments, Eugene dreams of a for-of land where he enjoys total freedom in opening out his heart to Candida. Apart from hiring a keen intellect, the lady is mature enough not to be swayed always by the gale of emotion and passion. Though she sympathizes with the young man, Candida maintains her poise and composure. Eugene extols her qualities and gives articulation to his feeling that her feet would be beautiful in the mountains. But Candida tries to show him the actual facts of life. The denouement wreaks the poet’s illusion because Candida knows that romance lasts the life of a bubble it is only a shadow without substance. Being the representative of a Shavian woman, Candida cannot move backward to inflame sentiments and emotions.
The close of the drama brings up an absorbing situation of immense suspense and thrill, unlike the old theatrical woman who allows herself to be an object of the contest and control Candida arts with the confidence of authority. Being an instrument of life force, she is to accelerate the force of creative evolution and has to choose the weaker of the two. With Morell, she has to his labor, social status and strength while Marchbanks has only his weakness to offer the situation throws a plenty of confusion. Morell’s sense of superiority prompts him to think that Candida is to opt for the weaker Eugene. But Eugene is rather clear in his mind, the mist is seen dispelled when Morell is made to grasp. The truth that he might be physically stronger but morally and intellectually he does not come close to Marchbanks. To show great credit both Morell and Eugene are vastly improved from when they came into right for the first time.
A new soul is born and Eugene is no longer the shy and timid boy of the first act. In the parson’s life also a happy conversion takes place. He is not the old pedagogue. The conflict resolved and the mind is completely purged of myopic views and sentimental attitude.