“The Philanderer” is the best play from Shaw that I’ve ever read, as good as “Man of Destiny”, better than “Mrs Warren’s Profession”, Arms and The Man, You Never Can Tell, The Devil’s Disciple, Caesar and Cleopatra, Man and Superman, Don Juan in Hell, Major Barbara, Pygmalion, Heartbreak House, The Apple Cart, The Millionairess. I can’t believe he wrote so many plays and for many years I only know about Pygmalion. Somehow I suspect that Shaw wanted to compete with Shakespeare–in numbers at least–and worked tirelessly to reach his goal. If so, Shaw has already won me over. Shakespeare is just too archaic to be enjoyable for me.
The Philanderer himself is not as villain like as I had imagined when I first started; the contrast of characters between Grace and Julia is real and insightful; Paramore’s dogmatic view of social interactions is presented right to the point. The best scene is between Grace and Julia. If this play is all about Grace and Julia, I would have liked it better, but I know this cannot be. Shaw is a man and he can only write from a man’s point of view. His power of understanding women, in his own peculiar way, makes me think that he is surrounded by those that he wrote about in his play–all interesting characters.
There are veiled disparaging remarks towards Julia, whose love for Charteris ceases to be a pleasure. Actually her love has become a nuisance for the philanderer. She is called too feminine, too womanly, without much regard for the change of heart of Charteris. In the end, she is conveniently disposed of when Paramore, the awkward scientist, becomes engaged to her. I am not sure I agree with the plot here that Julia just accept Paramore even if she doesn’t like him at all. I thought the author would create a situation in which Julia is heartbroken and Paramore helps stitch up the wound. The author didn’t do that. Because of Shaw’s wit, he can get away with anything. I mean any plot flaws.