List Of Contents | Contents of Man and Superman, by Bernard Shaw
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statues in London to supper with him, ugly as they are, than be
brought to the bar of the Nonconformist Conscience by Donna
Elvira. Excommunication has become almost as serious a business
as it was in the X century.

As a result, Man is no longer, like Don Juan, victor in the duel
of sex. Whether he has ever really been may be doubted: at all
events the enormous superiority of Woman's natural position in
this matter is telling with greater and greater force. As to
pulling the Nonconformist Conscience by the beard as Don Juan
plucked the beard of the Commandant's statue in the convent of
San Francisco, that is out of the question nowadays: prudence and
good manners alike forbid it to a hero with any mind. Besides, it
is Don Juan's own beard that is in danger of plucking. Far from
relapsing into hypocrisy, as Sganarelle feared, he has
unexpectedly discovered a moral in his immorality. The growing
recognition of his new point of view is heaping responsibility on
him. His former jests he has had to take as seriously as I have
had to take some of the jests of Mr W. S. Gilbert. His
scepticism, once his least tolerated quality, has now triumphed
so completely that he can no longer assert himself by witty
negations, and must, to save himself from cipherdom, find an
affirmative position. His thousand and three affairs of
gallantry, after becoming, at most, two immature intrigues
leading to sordid and prolonged complications and humiliations,
have been discarded altogether as unworthy of his philosophic
dignity and compromising to his newly acknowledged position as
the founder of a school. Instead of pretending to read Ovid he
does actually read Schopenhaur and Nietzsche, studies
Westermarck, and is concerned for the future of the race instead
of for the freedom of his own instincts. Thus his profligacy and
his dare-devil airs have gone the way of his sword and mandoline
into the rag shop of anachronisms and superstitions. In fact, he
is now more Hamlet than Don Juan; for though the lines put into
the actor's mouth to indicate to the pit that Hamlet is a
philosopher are for the most part mere harmonious platitude
which, with a little debasement of the word-music, would be
properer to Pecksniff, yet if you separate the real hero,
inarticulate and unintelligible to himself except in flashes of
inspiration, from the performer who has to talk at any cost
through five acts; and if you also do what you must always do in
Shakespear's tragedies: that is, dissect out the absurd
sensational incidents and physical violences of the borrowed
story from the genuine Shakespearian tissue, you will get a true
Promethean foe of the gods, whose instinctive attitude towards
women much resembles that to which Don Juan is now driven. From
this point of view Hamlet was a developed Don Juan whom
Shakespear palmed off as a reputable man just as he palmed poor
Macbeth off as a murderer. To-day the palming off is no longer
necessary (at least on your plane and mine) because Don Juanism
is no longer misunderstood as mere Casanovism. Don Juan himself
is almost ascetic in his desire to avoid that misunderstanding;
and so my attempt to bring him up to date by launching him as a
modern Englishman into a modern English environment has produced
a figure superficially quite unlike the hero of Mozart.

And yet I have not the heart to disappoint you wholly of another
glimpse of the Mozartian dissoluto punito and his antagonist the
statue. I feel sure you would like to know more of that statue--
to draw him out when he is off duty, so to speak. To gratify you,
I have resorted to the trick of the strolling theatrical manager
who advertizes the pantomime of Sinbad the Sailor with a stock of
second-hand picture posters designed for Ali Baba. He simply
thrusts a few oil jars into the valley of diamonds, and so
fulfils the promise held out by the hoardings to the public eye.
I have adapted this simple device to our occasion by thrusting
into my perfectly modern three-act play a totally extraneous act
in which my hero, enchanted by the air of the Sierra, has a dream
in which his Mozartian ancestor appears and philosophizes at
great length in a Shavio-Socratic dialogue with the lady, the
statue, and the devil.

But this pleasantry is not the essence of the play. Over this
essence I have no control. You propound a certain social
substance, sexual attraction to wit, for dramatic distillation;
and I distil it for you. I do not adulterate the product with
aphrodisiacs nor dilute it with romance and water; for I am
merely executing your commission, not producing a popular play
for the market. You must therefore (unless, like most wise men,
you read the play first and the preface afterwards) prepare
yourself to face a trumpery story of modern London life, a life
in which, as you know, the ordinary man's main business is to get
means to keep up the position and habits of a gentleman, and the
ordinary woman's business is to get married. In 9,999 cases out
of 10,000, you can count on their doing nothing, whether noble
or base, that conflicts with these ends; and that assurance is
what you rely on as their religion, their morality, their
principles, their patriotism, their reputation, their honor and
so forth.

On the whole, this is a sensible and satisfactory foundation for
society. Money means nourishment and marriage means children; and
that men should put nourishment first and women children first
is, broadly speaking, the law of Nature and not the dictate of
personal ambition. The secret of the prosaic man's success, such
as it is, is the simplicity with which he pursues these ends: the
secret of the artistic man's failure, such as that is, is the
versatility with which he strays in all directions after
secondary ideals. The artist is either a poet or a scallawag: as
poet, he cannot see, as the prosaic man does, that chivalry is at
bottom only romantic suicide: as scallawag, he cannot see that it
does not pay to spunge and beg and lie and brag and neglect his
person. Therefore do not misunderstand my plain statement of the
fundamental constitution of London society as an Irishman's
reproach to your nation. From the day I first set foot on this
foreign soil I knew the value of the prosaic qualities of which
Irishmen teach Englishmen to be ashamed as well as I knew the
vanity of the poetic qualities of which Englishmen teach Irishmen
to be proud. For the Irishman instinctively disparages the
quality which makes the Englishman dangerous to him; and the
Englishman instinctively flatters the fault that makes the
Irishman harmless and amusing to him. What is wrong with the
prosaic Englishman is what is wrong with the prosaic men of all
countries: stupidity. The vitality which places nourishment and
children first, heaven and hell a somewhat remote second, and the
health of society as an organic whole nowhere, may muddle
successfully through the comparatively tribal stages of
gregariousness; but in nineteenth century nations and twentieth
century empires the determination of every man to be rich at all
costs, and of every woman to be married at all costs, must,
without a highly scientific social organization, produce a
ruinous development of poverty, celibacy, prostitution, infant
mortality, adult degeneracy, and everything that wise men most
dread. In short, there is no future for men, however brimming
with crude vitality, who are neither intelligent nor politically
educated enough to be Socialists. So do not misunderstand me in
the other direction either: if I appreciate the vital qualities
of the Englishman as I appreciate the vital qualities of the bee,
I do not guarantee the Englishman against being, like the bee (or
the Canaanite) smoked out and unloaded of his honey by beings
inferior to himself in simple acquisitiveness, combativeness, and
fecundity, but superior to him in imagination and cunning.

The Don Juan play, however, is to deal with sexual attraction,
and not with nutrition, and to deal with it in a society in which
the serious business of sex is left by men to women, as the
serious business of nutrition is left by women to men. That the
men, to protect themselves against a too aggressive prosecution
of the women's business, have set up a feeble romantic convention
that the initiative in sex business must always come from the
man, is true; but the pretence is so shallow that even in the
theatre, that last sanctuary of unreality, it imposes only on the
inexperienced. In Shakespear's plays the woman always takes the
initiative. In his problem plays and his popular plays alike the
love interest is the interest of seeing the woman hunt the man
down. She may do it by blandishment, like Rosalind, or by
stratagem, like Mariana; but in every case the relation between
the woman and the man is the same: she is the pursuer and
contriver, he the pursued and disposed of.  When she is baffled,
like Ophelia, she goes mad and commits suicide; and the man goes
straight from her funeral to a fencing match. No doubt Nature,
with very young creatures, may save the woman the trouble of
scheming: Prospero knows that he has only to throw Ferdinand and
Miranda together and they will mate like a pair of doves; and
there is no need for Perdita to capture Florizel as the lady
doctor in All's Well That Ends Well (an early Ibsenite heroine)
captures Bertram. But the mature cases all illustrate the
Shakespearian law. The one apparent exception, Petruchio, is not
a real one: he is most carefully characterized as a purely
commercial matrimonial adventurer. Once he is assured that
Katharine has money, he undertakes to marry her before he has
seen her. In real life we find not only Petruchios, but
Mantalinis and Dobbins who pursue women with appeals to their
pity or jealousy or vanity, or cling to them in a romantically
infatuated way. Such effeminates do not count in the world
scheme: even Bunsby dropping like a fascinated bird into the jaws
of Mrs MacStinger is by comparison a true tragic object of pity
and terror. I find in my own plays that Woman, projecting herself
dramatically by my hands (a process over which I assure you I
have no more real control than I have over my wife), behaves just
as Woman did in the plays of Shakespear.

And so your Don Juan has come to birth as a stage projection of
the tragi-comic love chase of the man by the woman; and my Don
Juan is the quarry instead of the huntsman. Yet he is a true Don
Juan, with a sense of reality that disables convention, defying
to the last the fate which finally overtakes him. The woman's
need of him to enable her to carry on Nature's most urgent work,
does not prevail against him until his resistance gathers her
energy to a climax at which she dares to throw away her customary
exploitations of the conventional affectionate and dutiful poses,
and claim him by natural right for a purpose that far transcends
their mortal personal purposes.

Among the friends to whom I have read this play in manuscript are
some of our own sex who are shocked at the "unscrupulousness,"
meaning the total disregard of masculine fastidiousness, with
which the woman pursues her purpose. It does not occur to them
that if women were as fastidious as men, morally or physically,
there would be an end of the race. Is there anything meaner
then to throw necessary work upon other people and then disparage
it as unworthy and indelicate. We laugh at the haughty American
nation because it makes the negro clean its boots and then proves
the moral and physical inferiority of the negro by the fact that
he is a shoeblack; but we ourselves throw the whole drudgery of
creation on one sex, and then imply that no female of any
womanliness or delicacy would initiate any effort in that
direction. There are no limits to male hypocrisy in this matter.
No doubt there are moments when man's sexual immunities are made
acutely humiliating to him. When the terrible moment of birth
arrives, its supreme importance and its superhuman effort and
peril, in which the father has no part, dwarf him into the
meanest insignificance: he slinks out of the way of the humblest
petticoat, happy if he be poor enough to be pushed out of the
house to outface his ignominy by drunken rejoicings. But when the
crisis is over he takes his revenge, swaggering as the
breadwinner, and speaking of Woman's "sphere" with condescension,
even with chivalry, as if the kitchen and the nursery were less
important than the office in the city. When his swagger is
exhausted he drivels into erotic poetry or sentimental
uxoriousness; and the Tennysonian King Arthur posing as Guinevere
becomes Don Quixote grovelling before Dulcinea. You must admit
that here Nature beats Comedy out of the field: the wildest
hominist or feminist farce is insipid after the most commonplace
"slice of life." The pretence that women do not take the
initiative is part of the farce. Why, the whole world is strewn
with snares, traps, gins and pitfalls for the capture of men by
women. Give women the vote, and in five years there will be a
crushing tax on bachelors. Men, on the other hand, attach
penalties to marriage, depriving women of property, of the
franchise, of the free use of their limbs, of that ancient symbol
of immortality, the right to make oneself at home in the house of
God by taking off the hat, of everything that he can force Woman
to dispense with without compelling himself to dispense with her.
All in vain. Woman must marry because the race must perish
without her travail: if the risk of death and the certainty of
pain, danger and unutterable discomforts cannot deter her,
slavery and swaddled ankles will not. And yet we assume that the
force that carries women through all these perils and hardships,
stops abashed before the primnesses of our behavior for young
ladies. It is assumed that the woman must wait, motionless, until
she is wooed. Nay, she often does wait motionless. That is how
the spider waits for the fly. But the spider spins her web. And
if the fly, like my hero, shows a strength that promises to
extricate him, how swiftly does she abandon her pretence of
passiveness, and openly fling coil after coil about him until he
is secured for ever!

If the really impressive books and other art-works of the world
were produced by ordinary men, they would express more fear of
women's pursuit than love of their illusory beauty. But ordinary
men cannot produce really impressive art-works. Those who can are
men of genius: that is, men selected by Nature to carry on the
work of building up an intellectual consciousness of her own
instinctive purpose. Accordingly, we observe in the man of genius
all the unscrupulousness and all the "self-sacrifice" (the two
things are the same) of Woman. He will risk the stake and the
cross; starve, when necessary, in a garret all his life; study
women and live on their work and care as Darwin studied worms and
lived upon sheep; work his nerves into rags without payment, a
sublime altruist in his disregard of himself, an atrocious
egotist in his disregard of others. Here Woman meets a purpose as
impersonal, as irresistible as her own; and the clash is

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