List Of Contents | Contents of Man and Superman, by Bernard Shaw
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fatigue, exhaustion. When I was a child, and bruised my head
against a stone, I ran to the nearest woman and cried away my
pain against her apron. When I grew up, and bruised my soul
against the brutalities and stupidities with which I had to
strive, I did again just what I had done as a child. I have
enjoyed, too, my rests, my recuperations, my breathing times, my
very prostrations after strife; but rather would I be dragged
through all the circles of the foolish Italian's Inferno than
through the pleasures of Europe. That is what has made this place
of eternal pleasures so deadly to me. It is the absence of this
instinct in you that makes you that strange monster called a
Devil. It is the success with which you have diverted the
attention of men from their real purpose, which in one degree or
another is the same as mine, to yours, that has earned you the
name of The Tempter. It is the fact that they are doing your
will, or rather drifting with your want of will, instead of doing
their own, that makes them the uncomfortable, false, restless,
artificial, petulant, wretched creatures they are.

THE DEVIL. [mortified] Senor Don Juan: you are uncivil to my

DON JUAN. Pooh! why should I be civil to them or to you? In this
Palace of Lies a truth or two will not hurt you. Your friends are
all the dullest dogs I know. They are not beautiful: they are
only decorated. They are not clean: they are only shaved and
starched. They are not dignified: they are only fashionably
dressed. They are not educated they are only college passmen.
They are not religious: they are only pewrenters. They are not
moral: they are only conventional. They are not virtuous: they
are only cowardly. They are not even vicious: they are only
"frail." They are not artistic: they are only lascivious. They
are not prosperous: they are only rich. They are not loyal, they
are only servile; not dutiful, only sheepish; not public
spirited, only patriotic; not courageous, only quarrelsome; not
determined, only obstinate; not masterful, only domineering; not
self-controlled, only obtuse; not self-respecting, only vain; not
kind, only sentimental; not social, only gregarious; not
considerate, only polite; not intelligent, only opinionated; not
progressive, only factious; not imaginative, only superstitious;
not just, only vindictive; not generous, only propitiatory; not
disciplined, only cowed; and not truthful at all--liars every one
of them, to the very backbone of their souls.

THE STATUE. Your flow of words is simply amazing, Juan. How I
wish I could have talked like that to my soldiers.

THE DEVIL. It is mere talk, though. It has all been said before;
but what change has it ever made? What notice has the world ever
taken of it?

DON JUAN. Yes, it is mere talk. But why is it mere talk? Because,
my friend, beauty, purity, respectability, religion, morality,
art, patriotism, bravery and the rest are nothing but words which
I or anyone else can turn inside out like a glove. Were they
realities, you would have to plead guilty to my indictment; but
fortunately for your self-respect, my diabolical friend, they are
not realities. As you say, they are mere words, useful for duping
barbarians into adopting civilization, or the civilized poor into
submitting to be robbed and enslaved. That is the family secret
of the governing caste; and if we who are of that caste aimed at
more Life for the world instead of at more power and luxury for
our miserable selves, that secret would make us great. Now, since
I, being a nobleman, am in the secret too, think how tedious to
me must be your unending cant about all these moralistic
figments, and how squalidly disastrous your sacrifice of your
lives to them! If you even believed in your moral game enough to
play it fairly, it would be interesting to watch; but you don't:
you cheat at every trick; and if your opponent outcheats you, you
upset the table and try to murder him.

THE DEVIL. On earth there may be some truth in this, because the
people are uneducated and cannot appreciate my religion of love
and beauty; but here--

DON JUAN. Oh yes: I know. Here there is nothing but love and
beauty. Ugh! it is like sitting for all eternity at the first act
of a fashionable play, before the complications begin. Never in
my worst moments of superstitious terror on earth did I dream
that Hell was so horrible. I live, like a hairdresser, in the
continual contemplation of beauty, toying with silken tresses. I
breathe an atmosphere of sweetness, like a confectioner's
shopboy. Commander: are there any beautiful women in Heaven?

THE STATUE. None. Absolutely none. All dowdies. Not two pennorth
of jewellery among a dozen of them. They might be men of fifty.

DON JUAN. I am impatient to get there. Is the word beauty ever
mentioned; and are there any artistic people?

THE STATUE. I give you my word they won't admire a fine statue
even when it walks past them.


THE DEVIL. Don Juan: shall I be frank with you?

DON JUAN. Were you not so before?

THE DEVIL. As far as I went, yes. But I will now go further, and
confess to you that men get tired of everything, of heaven no
less than of hell; and that all history is nothing but a record
of the oscillations of the world between these two extremes. An
epoch is but a swing of the pendulum; and each generation thinks
the world is progressing because it is always moving. But when
you are as old as I am; when you have a thousand times wearied of
heaven, like myself and the Commander, and a thousand times
wearied of hell, as you are wearied now, you will no longer
imagine that every swing from heaven to hell is an emancipation,
every swing from hell to heaven an evolution. Where you now see
reform, progress, fulfilment of upward tendency, continual ascent
by Man on the stepping stones of his dead selves to higher
things, you will see nothing but an infinite comedy of illusion.
You will discover the profound truth of the saying of my friend
Koheleth, that there is nothing new under the sun. Vanitas

DON JUAN. [out of all patience] By Heaven, this is worse than
your cant about love and beauty. Clever dolt that you are, is a
man no better than a worm, or a dog than a wolf, because he gets
tired of everything? Shall he give up eating because he destroys
his appetite in the act of gratifying it? Is a field idle when it
is fallow? Can the Commander expend his hellish energy here
without accumulating heavenly energy for his next term of
blessedness? Granted that the great Life Force has hit on the
device of the clockmaker's pendulum, and uses the earth for its
bob; that the history of each oscillation, which seems so novel
to us the actors, is but the history of the last oscillation
repeated; nay more, that in the unthinkable infinitude of time
the sun throws off the earth and catches it again a thousand
times as a circus rider throws up a ball, and that the total
of all our epochs is but the moment between the toss and the
catch, has the colossal mechanism no purpose?

THE DEVIL. None, my friend. You think, because you have a
purpose, Nature must have one. You might as well expect it to
have fingers and toes because you have them.

DON JUAN. But I should not have them if they served no purpose.
And I, my friend, am as much a part of Nature as my own finger is
a part of me. If my finger is the organ by which I grasp the
sword and the mandoline, my brain is the organ by which Nature
strives to understand itself. My dog's brain serves only my dog's
purposes; but my brain labors at a knowledge which does nothing
for me personally but make my body bitter to me and my decay and
death a calamity. Were I not possessed with a purpose beyond my
own I had better be a ploughman than a philosopher; for the
ploughman lives as long as the philosopher, eats more, sleeps
better, and rejoices in the wife of his bosom with less
misgiving. This is because the philosopher is in the grip of the
Life Force. This Life Force says to him "I have done a thousand
wonderful things unconsciously by merely willing to live and
following the line of least resistance: now I want to know myself
and my destination, and choose my path; so I have made a special
brain--a philosopher's brain--to grasp this knowledge for me as
the husbandman's hand grasps the plough for me. "And this" says
the Life Force to the philosopher "must thou strive to do for me
until thou diest, when I will make another brain and another
philosopher to carry on the work."

THE DEVIL. What is the use of knowing?

DON JUAN. Why, to be able to choose the line of greatest
advantage instead of yielding in the direction of the least
resistance. Does a ship sail to its destination no better than a
log drifts nowhither? The philosopher is Nature's pilot. And
there you have our difference: to be in hell is to drift: to be
in heaven is to steer.

THE DEVIL. On the rocks, most likely.

DON JUAN. Pooh! which ship goes oftenest on the rocks or to the
bottom--the drifting ship or the ship with a pilot on board?

THE DEVIL. Well, well, go your way, Senor Don Juan. I prefer to
be my own master and not the tool of any blundering universal
force. I know that beauty is good to look at; that music is good
to hear; that love is good to feel; and that they are all good to
think about and talk about. I know that to be well exercised in
these sensations, emotions, and studies is to be a refined and
cultivated being. Whatever they may say of me in churches on
earth, I know that it is universally admitted in good society
that the prince of Darkness is a gentleman; and that is enough
for me. As to your Life Force, which you think irresistible, it
is the most resistible thing in the world for a person of any
character. But if you are naturally vulgar and credulous, as all
reformers are, it will thrust you first into religion, where you
will sprinkle water on babies to save their souls from me; then
it will drive you from religion into science, where you will
snatch the babies from the water sprinkling and inoculate them
with disease to save them from catching it accidentally; then you
will take to politics, where you will become the catspaw of
corrupt functionaries and the henchman of ambitious humbugs; and
the end will be despair and decrepitude, broken nerve and
shattered hopes, vain regrets for that worst and silliest of
wastes and sacrifices, the waste and sacrifice of the power of
enjoyment: in a word, the punishment of the fool who pursues the
better before he has secured the good.

DON JUAN. But at least I shall not be bored. The service of the
Life Force has that advantage, at all events. So fare you well,
Senor Satan.

THE DEVIL. [amiably] Fare you well, Don Juan. I shall often think
of our interesting chats about things in general. I wish you
every happiness: Heaven, as I said before, suits some people. But
if you should change your mind, do not forget that the gates are
always open here to the repentant prodigal. If you feel at any
time that warmth of heart, sincere unforced affection, innocent
enjoyment, and warm, breathing, palpitating reality--

DON JUAN. Why not say flesh and blood at once, though we have
left those two greasy commonplaces behind us?

THE DEVIL. [angrily] You throw my friendly farewell back in my
teeth, then, Don Juan?

DON JUAN. By no means. But though there is much to be learnt from
a cynical devil, I really cannot stand a sentimental one. Senor
Commander: you know the way to the frontier of hell and heaven.
Be good enough to direct me.

THE STATUE. Oh, the frontier is only the difference between two
ways of looking at things. Any road will take you across it if
you really want to get there.

DON JUAN. Good. [saluting Dona Ana] Senora: your servant.

ANA. But I am going with you.

DON JUAN. I can find my own way to heaven, Ana; but I cannot find
yours [he vanishes].

ANA. How annoying!

THE STATUE. [calling after him] Bon voyage, Juan! [He wafts a
final blast of his great rolling chords after him as a parting
salute. A faint echo of the first ghostly melody comes back in
acknowledgment]. Ah! there he goes. [Puffing a long breath out
through his lips] Whew! How he does talk! They'll never stand it
in heaven.

THE DEVIL. [gloomily] His going is a political defeat. I cannot
keep these Life Worshippers: they all go. This is the greatest
loss I have had since that Dutch painter went--a fellow who would
paint a hag of 70 with as much enjoyment as a Venus of 20.

THE STATUE. I remember: he came to heaven. Rembrandt.

THE DEVIL. Ay, Rembrandt. There a something unnatural about these
fellows. Do not listen to their gospel, Senor Commander: it is
dangerous. Beware of the pursuit of the Superhuman: it leads to
an indiscriminate contempt for the Human. To a man, horses and
dogs and cats are mere species, outside the moral world. Well, to
the Superman, men and women are a mere species too, also outside
the moral world. This Don Juan was kind to women and courteous to
men as your daughter here was kind to her pet cats and dogs; but
such kindness is a denial of the exclusively human character of
the soul.

THE STATUE. And who the deuce is the Superman?

THE DEVIL. Oh, the latest fashion among the Life Force fanatics.
Did you not meet in Heaven, among the new arrivals, that German
Polish madman--what was his name? Nietzsche?

THE STATUE. Never heard of him.

THE DEVIL. Well, he came here first, before he recovered his
wits. I had some hopes of him; but he was a confirmed Life Force
worshipper. It was he who raked up the Superman, who is as old as
Prometheus; and the 20th century will run after this newest of
the old crazes when it gets tired of the world, the flesh, and
your humble servant.

THE STATUE. Superman is a good cry; and a good cry is half the
battle. I should like to see this Nietzsche.

THE DEVIL. Unfortunately he met Wagner here, and had a quarrel
with him.

THE STATUE. Quite right, too. Mozart for me!

THE DEVIL. Oh, it was not about music. Wagner once drifted into
Life Force worship, and invented a Superman called Siegfried. But
he came to his senses afterwards. So when they met here,
Nietzsche denounced him as a renegade; and Wagner wrote a pamphlet
to prove that Nietzsche was a Jew; and it ended in Nietzsche's
going to heaven in a huff. And a good riddance too. And now, my
friend, let us hasten to my palace and celebrate your arrival with
a grand musical service.

THE STATUE. With pleasure: you're most kind.

THE DEVIL. This way, Commander. We go down the old trap [he
places himself on the grave trap].

THE STATUE. Good. [Reflectively] All the same, the Superman is a
fine conception. There is something statuesque about it. [He
places himself on the grave trap beside The Devil. It begins to
descend slowly. Red glow from the abyss]. Ah, this reminds me of
old times.

THE DEVIL. And me also.

ANA. Stop! [The trap stops].

THE DEVIL. You, Senora, cannot come this way. You will have an
apotheosis. But you will be at the palace before us.

ANA. That is not what I stopped you for. Tell me where can I find

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