Concept Exchange Society

Shaw Extract

Extracts from Act Three of " Man And Superman" a play in three acts by George Bernard Shaw. First published 1903

The premis and the setting

DEVIL (bowing): Lucifer, at your service.
ANA: I shall go mad.
DEVIL (gallantly) Ah, Senora, do not be anxious. You come to us from earth, full of prejudices and terrors of that priest ridden place. You have heard me ill spoken of. And yet I have hosts of friends there. . . The world cannot get on without me. But it never gives me credit for that. In its heart it mistrusts and hates me. Its sympathies are all with misery, with poverty, with starvation of the body and of the heart. I call on it to sympathize with joy, with love, with happiness, with beauty -
DON JUAN: I cannot stand this.
DEVIL (Appealing to the statue): By what irony of fate was this cold selfish egotist sent to my kingdom, and you taken to the icy mansions of the sky!
STATUE: I can't complain. I was a hypocrite. It served me right to be sent to Heaven.
DEVIL: Why not join us and leave a place for which your heart is too warm, your capacity for enjoyment too generous?
STATUE: I have resolved to do so. In future I am yours. I have left Heaven for ever.
DEVIL: An honor. Thank you. Could you not persuade him to take the place you have left vacant above?
. . .
ANA: Can anybody - can I go to Heaven if I want to?
DEVIL: Certainly, if your taste lies that way.
ANA: But why doesn't everybody go to heaven then?
STATUE: It's because Heaven is the most angellically dull place in all creation: that's why.
DEVIL: . . the strain of living in Heaven is intollerable. There is a notion that I was turned out of it; but as a matter of fact nothing could have induced me to stay there. I simply left it and organized this place.

End of Premise and Setting
.  .   .  .

DON JUAN: Invent me a means by which I can have love, beauty, romance, emotion, passion, without their wretched penalties, their expenses, their worries, their illnesses and agonies . .
. . . .
DEVIL: Here you have all that you sought without anything that you shrank from.
DON JUAN: . . . As long as I can conceive something better than myself I (must) strive to bring it into existence . . That is the working in me of Life's aspiration to higher organization, intenser self-consciousness and clearer self-understanding. It was the supremacy of this purpose . . that set up a God who looked at the world and saw that it was good, against the instinct in me that looked . . . at the world and saw that it could be improved.
. . . .
DEVIL: Senor Don Juan: you are uncivil to my friends.
DON JUAN: . . 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 moral; they are only conventional.
They are not virtuous; they are only cowardly.
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 considerate; only polite.
Not intelligent; only opinionated.
Not imaginative; only superstitious.
Not disciplined; only cowed. . .
. . . .
DEVIL: . . .men get tired of everything, of Heaven no less than of Hell. . . 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 that 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, and a thousand times wearied of Hell, 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, . .continual ascent by Man . . to higher things, you will see nothing but an infinite comedy of illusion. . . there is nothing new under the sun. Vanitas vanitatum -
DON JUAN: . . .is a man no better than a dog because he gets tired of everything? Shall he give up eating because he destroys his apetite in the act of gratifying it? Is a field idle when it is fallow? . . .
Granted that the great Life Force has hit on the device of the clockmaker's pendulum . . . has the colossal mechanism no purpose?
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. I 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. . . .(The) Life Force says, I want to know myself. . and choose my path. .
DEVIL: What is the use of knowing?
DON JUAN: . .To be able to choose the line of greatest advantage instead of yielding in the direction of least resistance. Does a ship sail to its destination no better than a log drifts nowhither? . . .And there you have our difference: To be in Hell is to drift: to be in Heaven is to steer.
DEVIL: 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. . .It is universally admitted in good society that the Prince of Darkness is a gentleman . . As to your Life Force . . (it amounts to) the waste and sacrifice of the power of enjoyment; . . 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 . .So fare you well, Senor Satan.

end of abstract

Summary!: The reason for striving (the Life Force) is to avoid boredom (both Heaven and Hell).

September 1997
Marvin Chester

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© m chester 1997 Occidental CA