George Bernard Shaw wrote his play Man and Superman in response to calls for him to write a play based off the Don Juan theme. Don Juan is a fictional character, said to be a womanizer, whose story has been told many times by various authors. George Bernard Shaw wrote for the Realism time period of theater, where the actions and speech of the characters were similar to that of everyday life. The plays and the actors themselves aimed to use the stage as an environment, rather than an acting platform. Social and political themes were popular and lower and middle class were often viewed as heroes. Plots and secrets known the audience, but not to certain characters, added to the suspense.
Realism began in the mid to late 19th century and continued into the 1900s. There was the growing belief that science could solve human problems. August Comte and Charles Darwin’s scientific findings helped lead to the emergence of Realism Theater. The movement began in France with three new social and artistic beliefs. The first was that truth resides in what we can perceive through our five senses. Second, the scientific method or observation can solve everything and anything. And third, human problems were the greatest manifestation of science. Drama dealt with human behavior and delved into the minds of humans, both males and females alike.
The Realism era belief that science could solve human problems was somewhat apparent in Shaw’s play Man and Superman. Ann Whitefield, who loved Jack Tanner and wanted him as a husband, was determined to get her way. She employs less obvious aspects of science, such as persistence and clever flirting, to help Jack realize his love for her. She uses her womanly wiles, a unique take on using science to solve problems, while alone with Jack. She gently taps him on the face while playfully arguing with him, and she wraps her boa around his neck in a lighthearted, but seductive way. Jack, though he tries to ignore these sneaky attempts at flirting, cannot help but find himself wrapped around her finger. In the end, Ann’s use of flirting and perseverance end up giving her what she ultimately wanted: Jack’s hand in marriage. Shaw shows us in the most simple, everyday way that science can truly be used to solve human problems.
The speech of the characters in Man and Superman is quite similar to what would have normally been used in everyday conversations. In the early 1900’s, cusswords and slang were not comfortably thrown about and this is obviously not used. However, the characters’ dialogue has a free-flowing, comfortable feel to it, as if they were truly having a conversation. Performing it felt natural and innate. I believe Shaw, who was greatly influenced by the Realism movement, wrote his characters’ dialogue this way on purpose. He stays true to Realism’s realistic approach. The characters of Man and Superman are not of upper class or important organizations, and they do not speak as if they are. There conversations are...