Getting Married

George Bernard Shaw
Getting Married

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Title: Getting Married
Author: George Bernard Shaw
Release Date: May, 2004 [EBook #5604] [Yes, we are more than one
year ahead of schedule] [This file was first posted on July 20, 2002]
Edition: 10

Language: English
Character set encoding: ASCII

Etext prepared by Eve Sobol, South Bend, Indiana, USA, and
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Transcriber's Note -- The edition from which this play was taken was
printed without most contractions, such as dont for don't and so forth.
These have been left as printed in the original text. Also, abbreviated
honorifics have no trailing period, and the word show is spelt shew.

Bernard Shaw
There is no subject on which more dangerous nonsense is talked and
thought than marriage. If the mischief stopped at talking and thinking it
would be bad enough; but it goes further, into disastrous anarchical
action. Because our marriage law is inhuman and unreasonable to the
point of downright abomination, the bolder and more rebellious spirits
form illicit unions, defiantly sending cards round to their friends
announcing what they have done. Young women come to me and ask
me whether I think they ought to consent to marry the man they have
decided to live with; and they are perplexed and astonished when I,
who am supposed (heaven knows why!) to have the most advanced
views attainable on the subject, urge them on no account to
compromize themselves without the security of an authentic wedding
ring. They cite the example of George Eliot, who formed an illicit

union with Lewes. They quote a saying attributed to Nietzsche, that a
married philosopher is ridiculous, though the men of their choice are
not philosophers. When they finally give up the idea of reforming our
marriage institutions by private enterprise and personal righteousness,
and consent to be led to the Registry or even to the altar, they insist on
first arriving at an explicit understanding that both parties are to be
perfectly free to sip every flower and change every hour, as their fancy
may dictate, in spite of the legal bond. I do not observe that their unions
prove less monogamic than other people's: rather the contrary, in fact;
consequently, I do not know whether they make less fuss than ordinary
people when either party claims the benefit of the treaty; but the
existence of the treaty shews the same anarchical notion that the law
can be set aside by any two private persons by the simple process of
promising one another to ignore it.
Now most laws are, and all laws ought to be, stronger than the
strongest individual. Certainly the marriage law is. The only people
who successfully evade it are those who actually avail themselves of its
shelter by pretending to be married when they are not, and by
Bohemians who have no position to lose and no career to be closed. In
every other case open violation of the marriage laws means either
downright ruin or such inconvenience and disablement as a prudent
man or woman would get married ten times over rather than face. And
these disablements and inconveniences are not even the price of
freedom; for, as Brieux has shewn so convincingly in Les Hannetons,
an avowedly illicit union is often found in practice to be as tyrannical
and as hard to escape from as the worst legal one.
We may take it then that when a joint domestic establishment,
involving questions of children or property, is contemplated, marriage
is in effect compulsory upon all normal people; and until the law is
altered there is nothing for us but to make the best of it as it stands.
Even when no such establishment is
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