The Apple Cart – George Bernard Shaw

Book: The Apple Cart – George Bernard Shaw.
Status: Read.

Despite being written nearly 80 years ago, I was amazed at how apt this play was for the current political climate!
Not so much in the main plot, but in the many political opinions and matters discussed.
As usual, Shaw was a joy to read. I’m slowly going through his plays and they never disappoint.
So here is the first batch of quotes that I  found interesting…

Synopsis – The Prime Minister and the cabinet seek to take away the Kings remaining political powers.
Characters – (to save energy I’ve taken this from

  • Sempronius The King’s Private Secretary
  • Pamphilius The King’s Private Secretary
  • Boanerges President of the Board of Trade
  • King Magnus
  • Orinthia King’s Mistress
  • Alice Princess Royal
  • Proteus Prime Minister
  • Pliny Chancellor of the Exchequer
  • Nicobar Foreign Secretary
  • Crassus Colonial Secretary
  • Balbus Home Secretary
  • Amanda Postmistress General
  • Lysistrata Powermistress General
  • Vanhattan American Ambassador
  • Queen Jemima

    “PAMPHILIUS:  …. I was going to say that I suppose you know that that bull-roarer Boanerges has just been taken into the Cabinet as President of the Board of Trade, and that he is coming here today to give the King a piece of his mind, or what he calls his mind, about the crisis. “

    “BOANERGES [Shortly, but a little taken aback] Oh, good morning to you. They say that politeness is the punctuality of kings–
    SEMPRONIUS: The other way about, Mr Boanerges. Punctuality is the politeness of kings; and King Marcus is a model in that respect. … “

    “PAMPHILIUS: You seem to have heard of all of us. You w ill be quite at home in the palace now that you are a Cabinet Minister. May I congratulate you on your appointment – or rather congratulate the Cabinet on your accession?”

    “MAGNUS: They bring us papers. We sign. You have no time to read them, luckily for you. But I am expected to read everything. I do not always agree; but I must sign: there is nothing else to be done. For instance, death warrants. Not only have I have to sign the death warrants of persons in my opinion ought not to be killed; but I may not even issue death warrants for a great many people who in my opinion ought to be killed.
    BOANERGES: [Sarcastic] You’d like to be able to say ‘Off with his head!’ wouldn’t you?
    MAGNUS: Many men would hardly miss their heads, there is so little in them.  …”

    “BOANERGES: No king on earth is as safe in  his job as a Trade Union official. There is only one thing that can get him sacked; and that is drink. Not even that, as long as he doesn’t actually fall down. I talk democracy to these men and women. I tell them that they have the vote, and that theirs is the kingdom and the power and the glory. I say to them ‘You are supreme: exercise your power.’ They say  ‘That’s right: tell us what to do.’; and I tell them. I say ‘Exercise your vote intelligently by voting for me.’ And they do. That’s democracy;  and a splendid thing it is too for putting the right men in the right place.”

    “PROTEUS: ….. If you all start quarrelling and scolding and bawling, which is just what he wants you to do, it will end in his having his own way as usual, because one man that has a mind and knows it can always beat ten men who haven’t and don’t.”

    “MAGNUS: Apart from Amanda’s family relations,  am I face to face with a united cabinet?
    PLINY: No sir. You are face to face with a squabbling cabinet; but, on the constitutional question, united we stand: divided we fall. “

    “PROTEUS: [Emphatically] And we have abolished poverty and hardship. That is why the people trust us. [To the King] And that is why you will have to give way to us. We have the people of England in comfort – solid middle class comfort – at our backs.
    MAGNUS: No: we have not abolished poverty and hardship. Our big business men have abolished them. But how? But sending our capital abroad to places where poverty and hardship still exist: in other words, where labor is cheap. We live in comfort on the imported profits of that capital. We are all ladies and gentlemen now.”

    Taken from ‘The Apple Cart’ by George Bernard Shaw.
    Available from Amazon UK :


3 thoughts on “The Apple Cart – George Bernard Shaw

  1. An author I need to re-visit. This play does seem, so very relevant to now.

    • niftybooks says:

      Shaw was so ahead of his time.. yet he was so aware of the world he lived in! It’s a strange mixture! But maybe it seems so relevant because we haven’t learnt from the mistakes made in the past. That’s most likely..

      Such a witty man too, I always end up smiling after reading him!

  2. The reason why Shaw is still relevant is because the political arguments, though couched in modern contexts are essentially the same as those of 100 years ago. The last quote is perhaps the best illustration of Shaw being in touch with al political reality that never changes. Capital will always chase cheap labour.

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