List Of Contents | Contents of Man and Superman, by Bernard Shaw
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

ago pointed out, are so extraordinarily superior, with their
power of flight and their lovely plumage, and, may I add, the
touching poetry of their loves and nestings, that it is
inconceivable that Life, having once produced them, should, if
love and beauty were her object, start off on another line and
labor at the clumsy elephant and the hideous ape, whose
grandchildren we are?

ANA. Aristophanes was a heathen; and you, Juan, I am afraid, are
very little better.

THE DEVIL. You conclude, then, that Life was driving at
clumsiness and ugliness?

DON JUAN. No, perverse devil that you are, a thousand times no.
Life was driving at brains--at its darling object: an organ by
which it can attain not only self-consciousness but

THE STATUE. This is metaphysics, Juan. Why the devil should--[to
the Devil] I BEG your pardon.

THE DEVIL. Pray don't mention it. I have always regarded the use
of my name to secure additional emphasis as a high compliment to
me. It is quite at your service, Commander.

THE STATUE. Thank you: that's very good of you. Even in heaven, I
never quite got out of my old military habits of speech. What I
was going to ask Juan was why Life should bother itself about
getting a brain. Why should it want to understand itself? Why not
be content to enjoy itself?

DON JUAN. Without a brain, Commander, you would enjoy yourself
without knowing it, and so lose all the fun.

THE STATUE. True, most true. But I am quite content with brain
enough to know that I'm enjoying myself. I don't want to
understand why. In fact, I'd rather not. My experience is that
one's pleasures don't bear thinking about.

DON JUAN. That is why intellect is so unpopular. But to Life, the
force behind the Man, intellect is a necessity, because without
it he blunders into death. Just as Life, after ages of struggle,
evolved that wonderful bodily organ the eye, so that the living
organism could see where it was going and what was coming to help
or threaten it, and thus avoid a thousand dangers that formerly
slew it, so it is evolving to-day a mind's eye that shall see,
not the physical world, but the purpose of Life, and thereby
enable the individual to work for that purpose instead of
thwarting and baffling it by setting up shortsighted personal
aims as at present. Even as it is, only one sort of man has ever
been happy, has ever been universally respected among all the
conflicts of interests and illusions.

THE STATUE. You mean the military man.

DON JUAN. Commander: I do not mean the military man. When the
military man approaches, the world locks up its spoons and packs
off its womankind. No: I sing, not arms and the hero, but the,
philosophic man: he who seeks in contemplation to discover the
inner will of the world, in invention to discover the means of
fulfilling that will, and in action to do that will by the
so-discovered means. Of all other sorts of men I declare myself
tired. They're tedious failures. When I was on earth, professors
of all sorts prowled round me feeling for an unhealthy spot in me
on which they could fasten. The doctors of medicine bade me
consider what I must do to save my body, and offered me quack
cures for imaginary diseases. I replied that I was not a
hypochondriac; so they called me Ignoramus and went their way.
The doctors of divinity bade me consider what I must do to save
my soul; but I was not a spiritual hypochondriac any more than a
bodily one, and would not trouble myself about that either; so
they called me Atheist and went their way. After them came the
politician, who said there was only one purpose in Nature, and
that was to get him into parliament. I told him I did not care
whether he got into parliament or not; so he called me Mugwump
and went his way. Then came the romantic man, the Artist, with
his love songs and his paintings and his poems; and with him I
had great delight for many years, and some profit; for I
cultivated my senses for his sake; and his songs taught me to
hear better, his paintings to see better, and his poems to feel
more deeply. But he led me at last into the worship of Woman.

ANA. Juan!

DON JUAN. Yes: I came to believe that in her voice was all the
music of the song, in her face all the beauty of the painting,
and in her soul all the emotion of the poem.

ANA. And you were disappointed, I suppose. Well, was it her fault
that you attributed all these perfections to her?

DON JUAN. Yes, partly. For with a wonderful instinctive cunning,
she kept silent and allowed me to glorify her; to mistake my own
visions, thoughts, and feelings for hers. Now my friend the
romantic man was often too poor or too timid to approach those
women who were beautiful or refined enough to seem to realize his
ideal; and so he went to his grave believing in his dream. But I
was more favored by nature and circumstance. I was of noble
birth and rich; and when my person did not please, my
conversation flattered, though I generally found myself
fortunate in both.

THE STATUE. Coxcomb!

DON JUAN. Yes; but even my coxcombry pleased. Well, I found that
when I had touched a woman's imagination, she would allow me to
persuade myself that she loved me; but when my suit was granted
she never said "I am happy: my love is satisfied": she always
said, first, "At last, the barriers are down," and second, "When
will you come again?"

ANA. That is exactly what men say.

DON JUAN. I protest I never said it. But all women say it. Well,
these two speeches always alarmed me; for the first meant that
the lady's impulse had been solely to throw down my
fortifications and gain my citadel; and the second openly
announced that henceforth she regarded me as her property, and
counted my time as already wholly at her disposal.

THE DEVIL. That is where your want of heart came in.

THE STATUE. [shaking his head] You shouldn't repeat what a woman
says, Juan.

ANA. [severely] It should be sacred to you.

THE STATUE. Still, they certainly do always say it. I never
minded the barriers; but there was always a slight shock about
the other, unless one was very hard hit indeed.

DON JUAN. Then the lady, who had been happy and idle enough
before, became anxious, preoccupied with me, always intriguing,
conspiring, pursuing, watching, waiting, bent wholly on making
sure of her prey--I being the prey, you understand. Now this was
not what I had bargained for. It may have been very proper and
very natural; but it was not music, painting, poetry and joy
incarnated in a beautiful woman. I ran away from it. I ran away
from it very often: in fact I became famous for running away from

ANA. Infamous, you mean,

DON JUAN. I did not run away from you. Do you blame me for
running away from the others?

ANA. Nonsense, man. You are talking to a woman of 77 now. If you
had had the chance, you would have run away from me too--if I had
let you. You would not have found it so easy with me as with some
of the others. If men will not be faithful to their home and
their duties, they must be made to be. I daresay you all want to
marry lovely incarnations of music and painting and poetry. Well,
you can't have them, because they don't exist. If flesh and blood
is not good enough for you you must go without: that's all. Women
have to put up with flesh-and-blood husbands--and little enough
of that too, sometimes; and you will have to put up with
flesh-and-blood wives. The Devil looks dubious. The Statue makes
a wry face. I see you don't like that, any of you; but it's true,
for all that; so if you don't like it you can lump it.

DON JUAN. My dear lady, you have put my whole case against
romance into a few sentences. That is just why I turned my back
on the romantic man with the artist nature, as he called his
infatuation. I thanked him for teaching me to use my eyes and
ears; but I told him that his beauty worshipping and happiness
hunting and woman idealizing was not worth a dump as a philosophy
of life; so he called me Philistine and went his way.

ANA. It seems that Woman taught you something, too, with all her

DON JUAN. She did more: she interpreted all the other teaching
for me. Ah, my friends, when the barriers were down for the first
time, what an astounding illumination! I had been prepared for
infatuation, for intoxication, for all the illusions of love's
young dream; and lo! never was my perception clearer, nor my
criticism more ruthless. The most jealous rival of my mistress
never saw every blemish in her more keenly than I. I was not
duped: I took her without chloroform.

ANA. But you did take her.

DON JUAN. That was the revelation. Up to that moment I had never
lost the sense of being my own master; never consciously taken a
single step until my reason had examined and approved it. I had
come to believe that I was a purely rational creature: a thinker!
I said, with the foolish philosopher, "I think; therefore I am."
It was Woman who taught me to say "I am; therefore I think." And
also "I would think more; therefore I must be more."

THE STATUE. This is extremely abstract and metaphysical, Juan. If
you would stick to the concrete, and put your discoveries in the
form of entertaining anecdotes about your adventures with women,
your conversation would be easier to follow.

DON JUAN. Bah! what need I add? Do you not understand that when I
stood face to face with Woman, every fibre in my clear critical
brain warned me to spare her and save myself. My morals said No.
My conscience said No. My chivalry and pity for her said No. My
prudent regard for myself said No. My ear, practised on a
thousand songs and symphonies; my eye, exercised on a thousand
paintings; tore her voice, her features, her color to shreds. I
caught all those tell-tale resemblances to her father and mother
by which I knew what she would be like in thirty years time. I
noted the gleam of gold from a dead tooth in the laughing mouth:
I made curious observations of the strange odors of the chemistry
of the nerves. The visions of my romantic reveries, in which I
had trod the plains of heaven with a deathless, ageless creature
of coral and ivory, deserted me in that supreme hour. I
remembered them and desperately strove to recover their illusion;
but they now seemed the emptiest of inventions: my judgment was
not to be corrupted: my brain still said No on every issue. And
whilst I was in the act of framing my excuse to the lady, Life
seized me and threw me into her arms as a sailor throws a scrap
of fish into the mouth of a seabird.

THE STATUE. You might as well have gone without thinking such a
lot about it, Juan. You are like all the clever men: you have
more brains than is good for you.

THE DEVIL. And were you not the happier for the experience, Senor
Don Juan?

DON JUAN. The happier, no: the wiser, yes. That moment introduced
me for the first time to myself, and, through myself, to the
world. I saw then how useless it is to attempt to impose
conditions on the irresistible force of Life; to preach prudence,
careful selection, virtue, honor, chastity--

ANA. Don Juan: a word against chastity is an insult to me.

DON JUAN. I say nothing against your chastity, Senora, since it
took the form of a husband and twelve children. What more could
you have done had you been the most abandoned of women?

ANA. I could have had twelve husbands and no children that's what
I could have done, Juan. And let me tell you that that would have
made all the difference to the earth which I replenished.

THE STATUE. Bravo Ana! Juan: you are floored, quelled,

DON JUAN. No; for though that difference is the true essential
difference--Dona Ana has, I admit, gone straight to the real
point--yet it is not a difference of love or chastity, or even
constancy; for twelve children by twelve different husbands would
have replenished the earth perhaps more effectively. Suppose my
friend Ottavio had died when you were thirty, you would never
have remained a widow: you were too beautiful. Suppose the
successor of Ottavio had died when you were forty, you would
still have been irresistible; and a woman who marries twice
marries three times if she becomes free to do so. Twelve lawful
children borne by one highly respectable lady to three different
fathers is not impossible nor condemned by public opinion. That
such a lady may be more law abiding than the poor girl whom we
used to spurn into the gutter for bearing one unlawful infant is
no doubt true; but dare you say she is less self-indulgent?

ANA. She is less virtuous: that is enough for me.

DON JUAN. In that case, what is virtue but the Trade Unionism of
the married? Let us face the facts, dear Ana. The Life Force
respects marriage only because marriage is a contrivance of its
own to secure the greatest number of children and the closest
care of them. For honor, chastity and all the rest of your moral
figments it cares not a rap. Marriage is the most licentious of
human institutions--

ANA. Juan!

THE STATUE. [protesting] Really!--

DON JUAN. [determinedly] I say the most licentious of human
institutions: that is the secret of its popularity. And a woman
seeking a husband is the most unscrupulous of all the beasts of
prey. The confusion of marriage with morality has done more to
destroy the conscience of the human race than any other single
error. Come, Ana! do not look shocked: you know better than any
of us that marriage is a mantrap baited with simulated
accomplishments and delusive idealizations. When your sainted
mother, by dint of scoldings and punishments, forced you to learn
how to play half a dozen pieces on the spinet which she hated as
much as you did--had she any other purpose than to delude your
suitors into the belief that your husband would have in his home
an angel who would fill it with melody, or at least play him to
sleep after dinner? You married my friend Ottavio: well, did you
ever open the spinet from the hour when the Church united him to

ANA. You are a fool, Juan. A young married woman has something
else to do than sit at the spinet without any support for her
back; so she gets out of the habit of playing.

DON JUAN. Not if she loves music. No: believe me, she only throws
away the bait when the bird is in the net.

ANA. [bitterly] And men, I suppose, never throw off the mask when
their bird is in the net. The husband never becomes negligent,
selfish, brutal--oh never!

DON JUAN. What do these recriminations prove, Ana? Only that the
hero is as gross an imposture as the heroine.

ANA. It is all nonsense: most marriages are perfectly

DON JUAN. "Perfectly" is a strong expression, Ana. What you mean
is that sensible people make the best of one another. Send me to
the galleys and chain me to the felon whose number happens to be
next before mine; and I must accept the inevitable and make the
best of the companionship. Many such companionships, they tell
me, are touchingly affectionate; and most are at least tolerably
friendly. But that does not make a chain a desirable ornament nor
the galleys an abode of bliss. Those who talk most about the

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: