Evaluate Man and Superman as Philosophy and Comedy

Evaluate “Man and Superman” as a Philosophy and a Comedy

Evaluate Man and Superman as Philosophy and Comedy : Subtitled “A Comedy and a Philosophy,” George Bernard Shaw‘s Man and Superman is a comedy of ideas: its characters talk over philosophies such as social reform, capitalism, male and female roles in courtship, and other existential matters in elongated speeches that resemble arias in an opera.

Evaluate Man and Superman as Philosophy and Comedy

In the sub-title of the play, Shaw himself calls Man and Superman a comedy and a philosophy. We may designate the drama as a biological comedy with spiritual overtones. The central theme of the play is Shaw’s anthropological myth that woman is the primary mover in the evolutionary process. In Act-I, II, and IV, we find the ruthless pursuit of Tanner by Ann that constitute the comedy of the drama. Shaw is truly right in calling Man and Superman a comedy and a philosophy, for the play is a rich storehouse of Shavian thoughts; but this thought-content is treated in vein of the most light hearted comedy.

Man and Superman

    Man and Superman contains Shaw’s view on everyday subjects. He has expressed his views on love, woman, marriage, sex-relations, socialism, democracy etc. In fact, the play is Shaw’s finest statement of his idea of Life-force. Shaw’s life-force is a spiritual power in the universe. Don Juan says in the play:

    “Life is a force which has made innumerable experiments in organizing itself.”

Shavian Don Juan is the spokesman of Shaw himself in the Play He is the philosophic man with intellect. In conversation with the statue Don Juan says:

    “………… to life, the force behind the Man, intellect is a necessity, because without it he blunders into death”.  

On women, in the play, Shaw’s comment is that a woman is not a Poet’s dream. She has to play an important role in the evolutionary process. Her ordained function is to create higher beings. Shaw thinks that biologically woman is primary and man secondary in the process of keeping the human race running. Because, by Shaw’s words:

“She blows by instinct that far back in the evolutional process, she invented him, differentiated him, and created him in order to produce something better.”

All the philosophical implications of the play have been illustrated through the story of Tanner and Ann with utmost levity and this makes the play comedy as well. We witness the tragicomic spectacle of a woman in love chase.

Ann Whitefield is a vital genius; Tanner on the other hand, is a man who does not tolerate Woman Company. Tanner avoids Ann and regards her company as dangerous; Ann, on the other side, considers Tanner as “biologically” preferable. Ann finally wins in the love chase game and the result is amusing and laughter-provoking in the extreme. Tanner says at last,

“I am in the grip of the life force”

Another comic scene is Octavius-centred. Ann is loved by the gentle, respectable, and poetically minded Octavius; but she shuns him. Tanner, Octavius’ friend, tries to make him understood the valuelessness of woman. But Octavius says that he could not write without the inspiration of Ann. Then Tanner says;

“…….. at the end of a week, you’ll find no more inspiration in her than in a plate of muffins.”

The more laughter provoking conversation is;

Oct: You think I shall tire of her.

Tan: Not at all; you don’t get tired of muffins.

Ann spans no cunning, no subterfuge, and no wile to gain her objective. It is all comedy when Tanner succumbs to her saying;

“The life force enchants me: I have the whole world in my arms when I clasp you.”

Leaving more discussion, we may say that Shaw is logically right to call Man and Superman” a comedy and a philosophy”. Shaw, in the play, has expressed his philosophical views on serious subjects but the way he has gone is comical.

Read it also:  Short note on the achievements of John Ruskin

1 thought on “Evaluate Man and Superman as Philosophy and Comedy”

Leave a Comment