Androcles and the Lion (play)


Androcles and the Lion (play)

"Androcles and the Lion" is a 1912 play written by George Bernard Shaw.

"Androcles and the Lion" is Shaw's retelling of the tale of Androcles, a slave who is saved by the requited mercy of a lion. In the play, Shaw makes Androcles out to be one of many Christians being led to the Colosseum for torture. Characters in the play exemplify several themes and takes on both modern and supposed early Christianity, including cultural clash between Jesus' teachings and traditional Roman values.

The short play is often printed with a preface that includes a long examination of the Gospels by Shaw, in which Shaw analyzes the Bible and proclaims his findings. In summary, Shaw states that Jesus was a benevolent genius (in areas ranging from moral to social to economical) who eventually bought into popular ideas of his divinity and impending martyrdom. Shaw goes on to state that the teachings of Jesus were lost with his crucifixion, and that following churches actually worship Paul or Barabbas. The preface is longer than the play itself.

The play was written at a time when the Christian Church was an important influence on society and there was strong pressure on non-believers in public life. The reverse of roles in the play possibly served to evoke empathy from his targeted audience. The characters also represent different "types" of Christian believers. The journey and final outcome of each of the characters make it clear which believers Shaw sympathizes with the most, especially with Lavinia. One of the most famous passages of the play is Lavinia's metaphor of capturing a mouse to converting from Christianity to believing in the Roman gods, where Lavinia shows that the most important part of religion is earnestness and a lack of hypocrisy. Hypocrisy was a characteristic in the Church that Shaw condemned.

The play has themes of martyrdom and persecution which are portrayed through the vehicle of comedy. Another point in the play is his position against vivisection, which connected to his philosophy in being a vegetarian. In the play, Shaw uses slapstick humour, verbal wit and physical humour to portray his themes.

A version was published using the Shavian alphabet (1962 Penguin Books, London).

A film version, "Androcles and the Lion" was made of the play in 1952, produced by Gabriel Pascal.


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