Imatges de pÓgina

M. Augustin Filon, a critic who nevertheless is far from fond of this author (Revue des deux Mondes).

The love which Shaw places in the souls of his feminine characters is generally not sensual. In his view woman loves above all because of her need to protect (Candida, Violet, Gloria, and Grace). The whole of love is, in them, tinged with maternity.

Although Bernard Shaw is an unsparing critic of present capitalist society, the general philosophy gathered from his drama is optimism. Gaiety is necessarily optimistic, and therefore this optimism is found in all comic writers. This optimism, even in his bitter censures of contemporary society, differentiates Shaw's drama more from that of Ibsen than from that of Björnson. In truth, whilst Björnson is generally an optimist, Ibsen is a pessimist, both from the point of view of the society of to-day and from that of the society of to-morrow. From the negative or destructive, and positive or constructive point of view, the philosophy which the plays of Bernard Shaw contain is a synthesis of socialism and anarchism. It is a philosophy similar to that which is brought forward in the works of the socialist and anarchist sociologists, such as Karl Marx, Bakounin, Elisée Reclus, G. De Greef, Hector Denis, Kropotkin, Proudhon, Friedrich Engels, A. Hamon, Emile Vandervelde, &c., though from the causal point of view his philosophy differs entirely from that of these writers; it has a somewhat theosophic aspect. A detailed study, however, would take us too far, and outside the scope of this article.

In principle, as was said by M. Emile Faguet, realistic art must be as impersonal as possible. It must reveal nothing of the passions of the author. In practice this impersonality is always impaired, as it is impossible for the author to be so purely objective as not to reflect in his work his tendencies of mind, character, and feeling. Bernard Shaw, in whom the sense of justice is highly developed, is certainly objective to a high degree. It is not even open to dispute that he endeavours to present the various aspects and various causes of one and the same human action. He strives towards the utmost impartiality, but whatever his endeavours he does not attain to the absolute impartiality which would be so desirable. He is the less able to do so because he is a high moralist, and wishes his plays to form lessons. In one of his prefaces he states so categorically. His object is to teach. Here again he differentiates from Ibsen, who

very energetically disavows any desire to teach. 'I am a painter and not an educator,' said the Norwegian dramatist, 'an artist and not a philosopher. I ask you to believe that the ideas which I write in my plays, both in form and substance, do not proceed from myself, but from the dramatic characters in my plays.?? It is quite otherwise as regards Bernard Shaw, who declares that he has the soul of a school

: Cf. Ossip Lourié, La Philosophie d'Ibsen.

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master. Just like Strindberg, our author makes use of the stage as
a means of exposing and translating his ideas, of shouting his thoughts
and opinions at the world. Like Aristophanes, Bernard Shaw regards
the theatre as in very fact a tribune. To them, the domain of the
comic poet is without limits, and his moralising mission is universal.
From the stage they speak to the entire world, embracing all in their
criticism with the most complete disrespect of everything. From
this point of view our author's plays recall the English drama of the
sixteenth century, which dealt with all questions which could concern
a man and a British citizen. With Terence, Bernard Shaw can say
'Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto. Nothing that concerns
men is foreign to him, and in all matters he plays the part of a school-
master. But what a schoolmaster! Amusing and profound, playful
and serious. To him we can apply what Santeuil said of the old
Italian comedy : Castigat ridendo mores.' The whole of his work
is for moralisation of humanity, but a moralisation having nothing
traditional, and even opposed to customary morals. In truth, no
play by Bernard Shaw defends conventional morals according to
bourgeois traditions and customs. No dénouement agrees with
traditional morals. On a superficial examination it would seem that
Candida remaining with her husband, the Pastor Morell, and Vivie
refusing to benefit by the fortune acquired by her mother, Mrs. Warren,
in a so-called immoral way, are endings in accordance with tradi-
tional morals. A deeper examination shows, however, that this is
only so in appearance, and that the determining causes of the actions
of Candida and Vivie have nothing whatever to do with concern for
society morality.

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Another point of similarity between G. Bernard Shaw and Molière is the common fate which has overtaken many of the plays of each. It is well known that Molière saw his L'Avare, Le Misanthrope, Les Femmes Savantes, and L'Ecole des Femmes turn out failures. Bernard Shaw in turn had to be appreciated by the Americans—which was no doubt

very painful to him, in view of the opinion he has repeatedly expressed regarding them--and the Germans, before gaining the appreciation of his fellow-citizens of Great Britain. Every play produced by Molière aroused disparaging criticism without end. Every play produced by Shaw arouses the anger of the Sarceys of all countries. But like Molière, il ne se soucie pas qu'on fronde ses pièces pourvu qu'il y vienne du monde (La Critique de L'Ecole des Femmes). But simultaneously with anger he also arouses sympathy. Molière had partisans and adversaries, and G. Bernard Shaw likewise has partisans and adversaries. Now, however, he has splendidly conquered and is facile princeps in the contemporary English theatre, and even the theatre of the world.

His plays, which are extremely varied, are also extremely amusing.

He utters truths with laughter, and his perpetual laughter has had this result, that Americans, and above all the English, have not quite understood him, and do not yet quite understand him. They never know whether the author is serious or not, or rather they always think that he is joking and does not mean what he says. As regards the English and Americans, as one of them, Mr. Archibald Hendetson, a great admirer of Bernard Shaw, wrote, “love of the paradox and of buffoonery are prejudicial to him.' It is very amusing, indeed, this complete failure to perceive one of the finest qualities of our author. Under the influence of religion for ages, the Anglo-Saxon has acquired a habit of mind full of hypocrisy and cant, from which all intellectual virtuosity is absent, as Shaw rightly points out. He is unable to understand the finesse and the height of view of an ironical tale of Voltaire, a philosophic drama by Renan, or a novel by Anatole France. Consequently he is unable to understand Bernard Shaw, whose drama is redolent of all these qualities, as M. Régis Michaud has justly observed. Furthermore, this failure to understand on the part of the Anglo-Americans is not likely to astonish those who know that falsehood is so usual a thing that people who believe when the truth is told them are very rare. Shaw, however loves to utter the truth, and then those who are accustomed to lie do not believe what he is saying. They take him for a jester or a clown, and do not believe that he really means the biting criticisms with which he assails capitalist society with all that supports it. Nevertheless, it is clear to everyone who studies Bernard Shaw and his work impartially that Shaw really expresses his opinions when he lashes capitalist society and its hypocrisy. Shaw says so himself in his preface to his Plays Unpleasant, and we should wrong him to think that in saying this he was merely jesting in order to deceive his readers.

Although Shaw writes in English, his constitution of mind is very different from that of the Englishman, since he is an Irishman. In this difference may no doubt be found one of the causes of his incomprehensibility to his compatriots. Bernard Shaw is an Irishman, and therefore one feels no astonishment in noting his intellectual relationship to Swift, Sterne, Sheridan, and Goldsmith. Like them, he is refined and vulgar, subtle and trivial, witty, original and sublime. I have no doubt whatever that, in French, Bernard Shaw's drama is destined to achieve brilliant success, because it is not national but human drama. His comedies are not an image of English society, but an image of contemporary human society. There are of course a few traits relating to habits and ways peculiar to the English, but they are so general that all cultured people in the world know them and are interested in them.

France, the country which gave the world Molière and Beaumarchais, will necessarily love Shaw, their intellectual son. The Frenchman, whilst laughing and ‘se dilatant la rate,' to use the Rabelaisian. expression, will understand the bitterness and the justice of the criticism with which Bernard Shaw lashes society. To sum up in one word, the dramatic work of Bernard Shaw is more French than English, although it was written in the English language.

To secure success for plays of this character in England it was needful to possess the tenacity, the audacity, and, let us say the word, the cheek of Bernard Shaw. There were so many bonds to be broken ! -cant, religious scruples, &c. In France, none of these trammels exists. It is only required to overcome the inertia of the directors of theatres, economic competition, and the benumbing misoneism of the playgoers. The extreme clearness of the drama of Bernard Shaw will endear him to French minds, which are imbued by nature with a predilection for clearness of thought. To us Frenchmen, this is the great point of superiority of this drama over that of the Scandinavians and the Germans, which is always somewhat misty, somewhat confined owing to the very nature of the country in which it moves. France is the boulevard of nations, the point of confluence where mingle the social rivers of all nationalities, and by this very fact it comprehends in a greater degree the general human elements which abound in our author's drama.

The influence of Molière has been considerable on authors of all countries, and there seems little doubt that Bernard Shaw will likewise have a considerable influence on future French and other dramatists. The renovation of the dramatic art, the dawn of which we thought We saw in the years 1889–94, has led to such meagre results that they may almost be passed over. It seems to me that Bernard Shaw will be the initiator of this renovation, when his drama becomes known in France. In England, as we have seen, his possible disciples are ander too many trammels to allow them to conquer and force themselves on the public. The German and Scandinavian minds from certain points of view are too greatly differentiated from Shaw to admit of finding those who will follow in his footsteps and continue his methods. Spain groans under the terrible rule imposed by religion and prevents any expansion of the individual beyond traditions. One must live in a free country to produce a work of beauty and thought. Russia is exhausting her powers in her revolution, and lives in a state of nervousness which renders her incapable of producing men of sufficiently healthy intellect to create a new drama. Italy, with its traditions and its addiction to the pathetic and the redundant, appears too remote from the time when it will be able to give birth to dramatists, disciples of Shaw. In my mind, everything suggests that Bernard Shaw's drama will call forth many disciples in France and Belgium as soon as it is known, being so closely akin to the French mind in the nature of its technique and its substance.



PERHAPS none of Shakespeare's plays are more remarkable for that exquisite blending of playfulness and wit to which our Gallic neighbours give the name of gaieté de cæur than The Merchant of Venice.

It has another claim to distinction. In the character of Portia it gives one of the most perfect portraits of a woman, whose essential charm is womanliness, of all Shakespeare's gallery of female portraits.

Can any true woman read unmoved the words in which Portia gives her love and her destiny into Bassanio's hands?

You see me, Lord Bassanio, where I stand,
Such as I am: though for myself alone
I would not be ambitious in my wish,
To wish myself much better; yet, for you
I would be trebled twenty times myself,
A thousand times more fair, ten thousand times more rich;
That only to stand high in your account,
I might in virtues, beauties, livings, friends,
Exceed account; but the full sum of me
Is sum of something, which, to term in gross,
Is an unlesson'd girl, unschooled, unpractis'd;
Happy in this, she is not yet so old
But she may learn ; and happier than this,
She is not bred so dull but she can learn ;
Happiest of all is, that her gentle spirit
Commits itself to yours to be directed,
As from her lord, her governor, her king.

To one who takes, as I do, what may be called the old-fashioned view of woman's position in the world, the above quotation is, to say the least of it, striking. But my object was not primarily that of adorning my page with the exquisite words of Shakespeare's ideal woman, or even drawing attention to her character.

There is another point in the play which, by analogy, seems to me to throw considerable light on the controversy of which we hear so much : whether women are likely to get parliamentary representation, and if conceded to them, whether it would be a benefit, or the


The plot of The Merchant of Venice, as we all know, turns on Shy

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