Man and Superman: Drama - Summary and Analysis

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      Man and Superman is Bernard Shaw's philosophical play first performed in 1905. This play belongs to the second period (1901-1929) of Shaw's dramatic writings. He had written social plays attacking the social institutions and ideas. In this play, he expounds on his philosophy of creative evolution. The play recreates the Don Juan legend in modern, altered guise.

      John Tanner (Don Juan Ternario), a well-to-do radical, and author of the Revolutionist's Handbook is co-guardian along with the conventional liberal, Roebuck Ramsden, of Ann Whitefield. Octavius Robinson, deeply in love with Ann is rejected because Tanner is actually her objective. Tanner fleeing on a continental motor trip, dreams of Don Juan in hell while in the sierras. Awake, Tanner is cornered and secured by Ann at Granada. In the subplot, Violet, sister of Octavius is pregnant supposedly out of wedlock, but she reveals a secret marriage to the Irish-American millionaire, Hector Malone.

Man and Superman is Bernard Shaw's philosophical play
Man and Superman

Critical Analysis

      The play is remarkable for the witty dialogue and the brilliant way in which important Philosophical topics are discussed. The first part of the play is good drama. "Don Juan in Hell" scene is generally mitted and was first presented separately in 1907. But the scene is related to the whole drama and is important for appreciating the philosophical implication of the play. Life force with Tanner is unconscious. However, he has been "selected by Nature to carry on the work of building up an intellectual consciousness of her own instinctive purpose", The Life force manifests itself through Ann. The mother-woman pursues and captures the artist man. The deep Life Force exemplified by Ann selectively seeks the advancement of the species. In the 'Don Juan in Hell' scene, Shaw explains his theory of Life Force. Life Force is driving towards self-consciousness, self-understanding. Increased command over himself is essential to man's advance. Tanner's defeat is that of Pirandello-life force with him is unconscious. But Don Juan's victory is Shavian. Here Life-Force is self-conscious. Shaw sees evolution as advancing towards a superior mankind when man will take the rudder of creation.

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