You Never Can Tell key facts and summary

You Never Can Tell By George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) You Never Can Tell is an 1897 four-act play by George Bernard Shaw that debuted at the Royalty Theatre. It was published as part of a volume of Shaw’s plays entitled Plays Pleasant.


Time: One Day in August 1896

Place: An English seaside resort, Marine Hotel.

Themes 1. Love and Marriage 2. Feminism 3. Socialism 4. Misunderstanding


1. Mr. (or Dr.) ValentineHe is thirty years old and professionally a dentist.

2. Gloria Clandon, the eldest daughter of Mrs. Clandon and 20 years old.

3. Dolly Clandon is 18 years old and the twin sister of Philip.

4. Philip Clandon, twin to Dolly – Mr. Roland Bottomley

5. Mrs. Lanfrey Clandon is a feminist. She is very modern and because of ideological differences, she left her husband, Mr. Crampton, 18 years ago.

6. Mr. Fergus Crampton is a man of about sixty, tall, hard, and stringy, with an atrociously obstinate, ill-tempered, grasping mouth, and a querulously dogmatic voice.

7. Mr. Finch McComas is a solicitor.

8. Walter Boon who is the waiter at the Marine Hotel.

9. Walter Bohun, who is the son of Walter Boon and QC which means Queens Counsel.

10. The Parlor-maid – Miss Mabel Hardinge


Dolly’s dental treatment to Mr. Valentine:

The drama starts in 1896 on the morning of august
at a dentist’s chamber that is well-furnished and spacious but there is a sign
of Victorian poverty in the chamber. The name of the dentist is Mr. Valentine
who is thirty years old and has rented his chamber. Six weeks have passed since
then he does not get any patients. But for the first time, he has got a patient
named Dolly who has come to England from Madeira, one of the famous cities of
Portugal is 18 years old and has come to the dentist to pull up her teeth. Dr.
Valentine tells his first patient that she is his first patient and she is to
pay five shillings for pulling up teeth and another five shillings if she wants
to take gas. Dolly is surprised to hear that she is the first patient of the
doctor. She surprisingly tells him why he does not practice in a hospital. Valentine
comically and scientifically replies that though she is his first patient, she
needs not to be worried because he is a well-trained doctor. Then he pulls her
teeth very efficiently. But she does not want the gas because she has to pay
five shillings more. Then Dolly asks Valentine why he charges five shillings
for everything. Valentine comically replies that he wants that people would
call him five shillings doctor. However, in the meantime, Dolly’s voluptuous
twin brother Philip appears in the chamber. Philip is an extraordinary young
man because he always observes human nature. He observes the doctor with
curiosity and decides that the doctor is not a rich man because he has been
living alone on the seashore without his parents. These three young people soon
build up a friendship.

Invite Valentine to lunch:

Then, Dolly invites Valentine to join today’s
lunch party with them. But Valentine politely tells her that he could not go to
lunch because he does not know them well. Then Philip and Dolly start a
conversation very irrelevantly. Being helpless, Valentine agrees to go to
lunch. He goes inside to change his dress for lunch.

The appearance of Mrs. Clandon and Gloria:

In the meantime, Mrs. Clandon, who is a feminist,
and her elder daughter Gloria come to the Doctor’s chamber because Dolly is
late to return to the hotel named Marine Hotel. Valentine comes to his chamber
from inside. Dolly introduces Valentine to her mother and elder sister who is
the perfect disciple of her mother. Here there is a sign of love at first sight
between Valentine and Gloria. The Parlor Maid of Doctor Valentine informs him
that his landlord wants to talk to him right now. Valentine tells his Maid to
inform his landlord that he has four patients in the chamber right now and
within a few minutes he will meet him. Now Mrs. Clandon is astonished because
of such behavior of the doctor. She curiously asks the doctor why he is telling
lie. He politely replies that within six weeks Dolly is his only patient which
is why his landlord is forcing him to leave his property but today his lie will
establish his business. Mrs. Clandon is convinced now. Valentine tells them to
stay for a while so that he can talk with his landlord at his house.

Children’s questions to the mother about the
father’s identity:

Valentine leaves and the three children of Mrs.
Clandon insists on her knowledge about their father. Mrs. Calndon says that
their father is backdated person and she does not want to tell them anything
about him. Valentine returns with satisfaction. Mrs. Clandon tells him that she
needs to go to a hotel because she has an appointment to talk to one of her old
friends in the hotel and also tells Valentine to bring his landlord to the
lunch party. Mr. Crampton comes to the chamber because his teeth are disturbing
him very much and he wants to get pulled up his disturbed teeth. Mr. Crampton
very passionately looks at Dolly. Dolly asks Mr. Crampton about his age and why
he is looking at her in such a way. Mr. Crampton tells her that he is in his
fifty-seven and she looks like his mother. Dolly asks him if she does not
resemble his daughter. Mr. Crampton then becomes furious and Dolly is surprised
feeling because the old man hates his daughter. Gloria, Dolly, and Philip leave
the chamber reminding Valentine lunchtime that is half past one. Mr. Crampton
also agrees to go to lunch.

Conversation between Valentine and Mr. Crampton
about conjugal life:

Then Valentine and Mr. Crampton talk about
conjugal life. Valentine is very positive as to conjugal life, but Mr. Crampton
is very pessimistic. Then Valentine asks Mr. Crampton why he is negative about
conjugal life. Mr. Crampton replies furiously that he is not a bachelor.
Valentine asks his landlord about Mrs. Crampton. He tells him that eighteen
years ago she left him, and he does not know where she is with his three

Unveiling Mr. Crampton’s identity:

Later in the day, on the terrace of the resort
hotel, Mrs. Clandon talks with Finch McComas about socialism which is hated by
Mrs. Clandon. McComas requests Mrs. Clandon to leave her ideology because the
time is changed now. Mrs. Clandon boastfully declares that her ideology will
not perish because she has built up Gloria with her strong ideology. McComas
asserts that Gloria should let go of her own way. However, McComas asks Mrs.
Clandon why she has asked him to come here. Mrs. Clandon replies comically that
she has not seen him for a long time. Then McComas requests her to tell the
real cause. She tells him that she has asked him to come here to narrate about
Mr. Crampton to her three children. Mrs. Clandon and her three children are now
with McComas. Mrs. Clandon tells Dolly that Mr. McComas has something more
serious than that to tell you. I have asked my old friend to answer the
the question you asked this morning. He is your father’s friend as well as mine:
and he will tell you the story more fairly than I could. McComas starts but is
interrupted by Dolly’s question.

She asks him how old her father is. McComas
retorts that her father is seventy-five years old and he is now living in this
town. He is a very wealthy man. Dolly then asks about her father’s name.
McComas answers Mr. Crampton. Now Dolly is delighted but Philip is furious and
cannot accept Mr. Crampton as his father. McComas tells Philip that he has no
right to choose his father from his own perspective. The whole environment is
shut down because this morning they met Mr. Crampton and invited him for lunch.
Mrs. Clandon and Gloria go inside the hotel. Philip tells the waiter named
William Boon to play a trick with Mr. Crampton. The waiter agrees. Mr. Crampton
arrives at the hotel with Valentine. The waiter respectfully informs Mr.
Crampton that he is going to have lunch with his children which means with his
family. Mr. Crampton is now astonished and warns the waiter not to have fun
with him in such a way. The waiter politely retorts that he is not funning
because a solicitor named McComas has told the whole story to the children.

Now Mr. Crampton is more furious and threatens
Valentine for this. Valentine convinces Mr. Crampton not to get excited and the
waiter with his diplomatic capacity soothes everyone’s hot feelings. At the
lunch, Mr. Crampton heads the table, but he is insulted heavily by all of his
three children. He is attacked with the fury of his children. But the most
pathetic matter to Mr. Crampton is that his children are not well-mannered
because they have all the habits. Through the lunch, the playwright satirized
the so-called Victorian modernism.

The love between Gloria and Valentine:

Now the scene turns to Gloria and Valentine.
Valentine praises a lot the beauty of Gloria. But on the other hand, Gloria
adheres blindly to her feminist thinking. She mentions that she has no tendency
for marriage and adds that a woman who has self-prestige cannot marry. Dolly
and Philip inform Mrs. Clandon that Gloria has fallen in love with Valentine.
Mrs. Clandon talks to Gloria about the matter. She persuades Gloria not to
accept Valentine’s love.

Mrs. Clandon’s ideology about family:

Mrs. Clandon explains to Gloria about the type of
family. According to Mrs. Clandon, family is two types – a mutual understanding
based and male-dominated. She boastfully announces that she has a family based
on mutual understanding so why Gloria needs to marry?

A scientific explanation of love:

Now scene turns to Gloria’s fury. When Gloria learns that
Valentine has already proposed to several women, she asks him directly and
Valentine without any hesitation confesses that he has already proposed to
several women. But it is the natural instinct of a man to propose to women for
the purpose of finding out true partner. Now, he has got his perfect match
which is why he does not anymore for propose anyone. But Gloria is not
convinced. But Valentine explains when he saw Gloria, he felt that oxygen was
running in his blood. Gloria also admits that she also felt so. 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. Now Gloria is convinced and kisses
Valentine. But Valentine is not satisfied since he has known from disguised
waiter Bohun, who is the counsel of Queen Victoria, that Gloria also engaged
herself in several love affairs before engaging with Valentine. The young
counsel settles the matter and Mr. Crampton is accepted by his children and his
wife Mrs. Clandon too. But Valentine is unhappy. But waiter Boon convinces and
suggests to Valentine “You Never Can Tell’’.

Mottaleb Hossain
Mottaleb Hossain

This is Motaleb Hossain, working on studying, a researcher on English literature and Theology.

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