Discuss the drama You Never Can Tell as an anti-romantic Comedy

Question: You Never Can Tell as an anti-romantic Comedy


In the play ‘You Never Can Tell,’ Shaw attacks the romantic ideas about love and marriage. By romanticism, Shaw means all that is not based on facts and reality. This play is anti-romantic because here Shaw satirizes the romantic and idealistic notions about love and life.


The term ‘anti’ means against or opposite and anti-romantic comedy signifies opposite to romantic comedy. To put it differently, Anti-romantic is a type of comedy in which romantic fascinations are disrupted. ‘You Never Can Tell’ is an anti-romantic comedy because Shaw satirizes a cynical attitude toward love, marriage, and life.

Ironical Setting

At the beginning of the play, we notice that the plot of the play starts very romantically but gradually it turns into bitter experiences of love and conjugal life.

More Notes: Modern Drama

Criticism of Ideology or ideas

Shaw expresses his idea against traditional thinking. He satirizes love and marriage and Victorian modern society. Mrs. Clandon thinks that she teaches her children her own philosophy and ideals but she fails because her daughter, Gloria disobeys her ideal and falls in love with Valentine. Mrs. Clandon tries to dissuade Gloria from falling in love with Valentine.

“How many times he has laid the trap in which he has caught you; how often he has baited it with the same speeches; how much practice it has taken to make him perfect in his chosen part in life as the Duelist of Sex.”

From this quotation, we can understand that love between males and females is the only source of sex in accordance with Mrs. Clandon.

Anti-romantic attitude to love

Shaw has an anti-romantic attitude to love. Being the mouthpiece of Shaw, Valentine expresses his creator’s attitude to love. Valentine told Gloria that his attack on the conflict of love is not conventional. He does not kneel in front of her. She doesn’t worship and adore her like a romantic lover. Instead, he hugs her tightly and kisses on her lips. Valentine says:

“Nature was in deadly earnest with me when I was in jest with her.”

Here, he applies his new method to overcome all the resistance of new women. His work is more direct and realistic and Valentine wins Gloria’s heart in an unconventional manner.

Elements of satire

In the play, Shaw vividly satirizes love and marriage. He expresses the problems and misunderstandings of conjugal life. He also satirizes Victorian modern relationships and feminists. Shaw reveals that man cannot live without family. In the play, after a long gap of eighteen years, when Mrs. Clandon meets her husband, her character begins to change and she wants feelings for her husband. On the other hand, her husband, Mr. Crampton passes a lonely life without his wife and children. At last, they get reconciled. Through their reconciliation, Shaw means to say that, family life must be based on wisdom and understanding, not emotion.

Wit and humor

Wit means the ability to use words or ideas in an amusing, clever, and imaginative way, and humor means quality in something that makes you laugh. In the play, we notice that Valentine is a wit person. When Gloria wants an explanation of man-woman attraction for each other, Valentine describes it in terms of chemistry. Valentine also illustrates that their relationship is like a chemical reaction. In a chemical reaction, a new is always produced by mixing at least two elements. Likewise, the relationship between man and woman is prolific because a new human comes to this world through such a relationship.

“No, no, no. Not love: we know better than that. Let’s call it Chemistry.”

Mingled Characters

It is mandatory for an anti-romantic having bad and good characters. The range of characters of this drama meets the demand of an anti-romantic comedy since we have a Byronic hero like Valentine and like Mr. Crampton and Mrs. Clandon.


Every literary work bears morality for humans and ‘You Never Can Tell’ is no exception. The morality of the play is that everyone never can tell what will happen in the future.  Man needs a family and conjugal life needs mutual understanding.


From the above discussion, it is undoubted that this play is an anti-romantic comedy because it fulfils all elements of anti-romantic comedy. Shaw breaks the conventional ideals of love and marriage and expresses his realistic view.

SR Sarker
SR Sarker
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