Places: Back to Methuselah

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1921

First produced: 1922

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Fantasy

Time of work: From the beginning of time to 31,920 c.e.

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places DiscussedGarden of Eden

Garden Back to Methuselahof Eden. Playground of the biblical Adam and Eve, whose petty quarrels are interrupted by a gigantic and gloriously colored serpent.

Oasis

Oasis. Location in Mesopotamia where, a few centuries after leaving Eden, Adam and Eve are confronted by their son Cain’s adolescent rebellion.

*London

*London. Capital city of Great Britain, where, after the end of the Great War, in a house overlooking Hampstead Heath, the Brothers Barnabas conceive a scheme of Creative Evolution to recover the longevity of Adam and Eve. They attempt, unsuccessfully, to interest various politicians.

Board

Board. Parlor of the president of the British Islands in the year 2170. The room’s end wall is a massive television screen. The Gospel of the Brothers Barnabas has been rediscovered, and its principles found to be in action; however, the president cannot convince the representatives of various religions of this fact.

*Galway Bay

*Galway Bay. Atlantic Ocean inlet in western Ireland where, in the year 3000, a confrontation occurs among a diplomat from the capital of the British Commonwealth (located in Baghdad), the emperor of Turania, and representatives of a long-lived, culturally superior race. The revelations of an oracle voiced in a temple near Burrin pier fail to convince the visitors that their folkways are obsolete.

Temple on the hill

Temple on the hill. Edifice on a wooded slope, perhaps on the same site as the temple previously featured. A ritual performed before its altar ends with the oviparous birth of a Newly Born individual, whose curiosity requires a prompt education in the mysterious ways of the Life Force. The ghosts of Adam, Eve, and Cain subsequently reappear outside the temple, so that Lilith can explain to them that their ultimate descendants have given up on vulgar matter to become purified souls.

BibliographyCrompton, Louis. Shaw the Dramatist. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1969. Includes an excellent chapter on Back to Methuselah, which discusses Shaw’s debts to the thinkers and writers of his time.Ervine, St. John. Bernard Shaw: His Life, Work and Friends. New York: William Morrow, 1956. An account that draws on personal knowledge of and correspondence with Shaw. The author often takes issue with Shaw’s ideas.Joad, C. E. M. “Shaw’s Philosophy.” In George Bernard Shaw: A Critical Survey, edited by Louis Kronenberger. New York: World Publishing, 1953. The best overall view of Shaw’s ideas of Creative Evolution and the Life Force and their relations to other basic Shavian ideas.Shaw, George Bernard. “Preface: The Infidel Half Century.” In Bernard Shaw: Collected Plays with Their Prefaces. Vol. 5. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1972. Indispensable. Shaw’s own lengthy and discursive discussion of the play, why he wrote it, and how it should be understood.Whitman, Robert F. Shaw and the Play of Ideas. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1977. A discussion that emphasizes the way in which the play presents and resolves contradictions. Also deals with the importance of hope in the play and in the Shavian scheme of things.
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