Androcles and the Lion

Definition

Theater

  • A two-act comedy by George Bernard Shaw. It was firstproduced in 1913 in London, starring Harley Granville-barker and hiswife, Lillah McCarthy. The brief play, which explores questions of religiousbelief, was published with a lengthy preface on Christianity. When first produced it was criticized as being somewhat light and frivolous. There wasa notable revival at the Mermaid Theatre in 1961.

    The plot is based on an old tale recorded by Aulus Gellius(c. 130 - 180 BC). Androcles is a runaway Christianslave who takes shelter in a cave. A lion enters and, instead of devouringhim, lifts up his forepaw so that Androcles can remove a thorn. Androcles issubsequently captured, and forced to fight with a lion in the Romanarena. It so happens that the same lion is led out against him,and recognizes his benefactor.

    Shaw's play focuses on the different ways in which Androclesand his fellow Christians face death. He depicts Caesar as persecutingChristians merely for short-term political motives.

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