Shaw was a fascinating man, one who tends to get shuffled under the carpet far too often these days. Pygmilion is now regarded as his classic, but he had several other dramatic treasures, including Major Barbara. This particular piece has the character of Adolphus Cusins (aka Dolly) discussing with Barbara his decision to join her father’s armament company. Barbara has been fighting against her father’s business of war by serving as a Major in the Salvation Army, but her father has to step in and donate money to keep it running, causing her some grief. Dolly loves Barbara, and is willing to alter his ideals in order to marry her. After one of Barbara’s objections, this is his reply:
CUSINS. You cannot have power for good without having power for evil too. Even mother’s milk nourishes murderers as well as heroes. This power which only tears men’s bodies to pieces has never been so horribly abused as the intellectual power, the imaginative power, the poetic, religious power that can enslave men’s souls. As a teacher of Greek I gave the intellectual man weapons against the common man. I now want to give the common man weapons against the intellectual man. I love the common people. I want to arm them against the lawyer, the doctor, the priest, the literary man, the professor, the artist, and the politician, who, once in authority, are the most dangerous, disastrous, and tyrannical of all the fools, rascals, and impostors. I want a democratic power strong enough to force the intellectual oligarchy to use its genius for the general good or else perish.
Strong, powerful lines. I admit – I haven’t read this script before, but I was quite enamored with his use of language here. I plan to further read this play, and hopefully this monologue will inspire you to do the same.