Thursday, April 20, 2017

Shaw's "Major Barbara"

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), playwright and man of letters
We had a good, and as usual, opinionated, group for our March 27th meeting on George Bernard Shaw's three-act play "Major Barbara." Many thanks to the participants who play-acted two scenes from the play. One of them, from Act II, contained the following words spoken by Andrew Undershaft, a munitions manufacturer, to Adolphus Cusins, his daughter Barbara's minion in the Salvation Army, who is a scholar of ancient Greek:

Pooh, Professor! Let us call things by their proper names.  I am a millionaire; you are a poet; Barbara is a savior of souls. What have we three to do with the common mob of idolators?

Barbara becomes disillusioned with the Salvation Army when she learns that Mrs. Baines, the Army's commissioner, will accept sizable donations from Bodger, a whiskey distiller (thus by definition a corrupter of those whom the Army seeks to save), and from her own father, who considers his business and Bodger's to be in a mutually beneficial relationship.

What these three in the end have to do with "the common mob of idolators" is very simple: give them jobs!  At the end of the play, Barbara is betrothed to Cusins, to whom Undershaft intends to hand over the family business. The final act takes place in Undershaft's idyllic company town of Perivale St. Andrew. It's last line is spoken by Undershaft.  He tells Cusins, "Six o'clock tomorrow morning, Euripides." He calls him "Euripides" because Cusins had earlier declaimed lines from a translation of Euripides's "Bacchae". We all of us, poets and playwrights not excepted, have to get to work.

P.S. The real Euripides will be our author later in the year!