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Androcles and the Lion

3.61 of 5 stars 3.61  ·  rating details  ·  405 ratings  ·  25 reviews
Tells the tale of Androcles, a slave who is saved by the requited mercy of a lion.
Paperback, 160 pages
Published March 29th 1988 by Penguin Books (first published 1912)
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I, Claudius by Robert GravesJulius Caesar by William ShakespeareLove, Eternally by Morgan O'NeillClaudius the God and His Wife Messalina by Robert GravesThe First Man in Rome by Colleen McCullough
Books Set in Rome
53rd out of 158 books — 47 voters
Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean WebsterChronicles of Avonlea by L.M. MontgomeryDeath in Venice by Thomas MannA Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice BurroughsThe Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle
Best Books of 1912
9th out of 14 books — 10 voters

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Shaw was a man of conflicts, and though some came from without, the majority were simply Shaw running roughshod over himself. He was quick to adopt new ideas, then vehement in defending them for as long as he kept them--which was rarely very long.

He first fought to abolish censorship, then supported the right of a fascist regime to silence undesirables. He was a lifelong supporter of the people's revolution against economic tyranny, but praised totalitarian rule by both Stalin and Hitler. He con
Erik Graff
Feb 13, 2012 Erik Graff rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: Ken Bennett
Shelves: drama
I hadn't realized until just a few weeks ago that the tale of Androcles and the lion was current in the Roman Empire, but as a fact, not a fable. A lion actually did spare its intended victim in the Coloseum, apparently showing affection towards him. I found the reference in an academic study of the history of Roman gladitorial contests.
Jason Williams
The bulk of this is not the play, but a dizzying (and I think more enjoyable) literary and historical criticism of the Bible (New Testament mostly). Perhaps half of what he says was with a smirk, but all of it serious to varying degrees.

In some very prominent ways, Shaw can be read alongside Tolstoy's essays on religion and, along with some Romantics, Transcendentalists and Liberationists, they can be very useful perspectives on grassroots and anarcho-Christianity.
I don't know if I should begin with the 109 page "preface" or the fact that the entire book felt a bit preachy... There were times when the play itself was actually funny.
Ali Reda
The Emperor is the Defender of the Faith. In throwing you to the lions he will be upholding the interests of religion in Rome. If you were to throw him to the lions, that would no doubt be persecution.

THE CAPTAIN: What is God?
LAVINIA: When we know that, Captain, we shall be gods ourselves.

And from the preface:

The modern practical form of the communism of Jesus is therefore, for the present, equal distribution of the surplus of the national income that is not absorbed by simple communism.

Paul suc
David Sarkies
Shaw on the Origins of Christianity
21 September 2009

This play, set in Imperial Rome, is the story of a Christian being thrown to the lions. However, the play is a lot more than just a poor defenceless soul being ripped apart by a ravenous beast, nor is it an attack upon Christianity, but rather a critical look at the church in modern times. The intention of the play seems to be to remind Christians of where they have come from and what they have become.
The play was released in 1913, during a t
Tyler Jones
I read this as an ebook - so I seem to have a slightly different edition than my fellow goodreaders, many of whom seem have enjoyed a rather lengthy introduction by GBS in which he dissects the gospels. My cheap little ebook did not include this, but instead tacked on a epilogue in which Shaw chides as all for being just as stupid and cruel as the crowds that filled the Roman forum. I could have done without this tongue lashing - I prefer a play to speak for itself and if the author feels the ne ...more
I keep trying to think of something to say about this play, but I have found that there is not much for me to say except for this: I think that Shaw made a point of looking critically at the Church by using an ancient example. Androcles is a rather weak man who is saved from death because of his friendship with the lion that is supposed to kill him. His kind nature is what saves him, because instead of scorning the lion when he first sees him at the start of the play, he treats it with kindness. ...more
Enjoyed the entirety of the preface (an exegesis and critical dissection of the bible) more than the play. Both, however, were worth the read.
Somehow I missed this brilliant extended essay. Take this gem: " will learn how the same primitive logic which makes the Englishman believe today that by eating a beefsteak he can acquire the strength and courage of the bull, and to hold that belief in the face of the most ignominious defeats by vegetarian wrestlers and racers and bicyclists, led the first men who conceived God as capable of incarnation to believe that they could acquire a spark of his divinity by eating his flesh and drin ...more
Nov 04, 2010 Anittah rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone not terribly familiar with the Bible
The short:

The preface to Bernard Shaw’s Androcles and the Lion is a recommended read for anyone not terribly familiar with the Bible. Shaw’s exegesis is funny, dry, and sociohistorically illuminating — and still relevant. Plus, the play’s pretty funny, too; mewonders if Shaw cast Androcles as a prancing fairy.

The long:

Go to
This and Major Barbara are my favorite Shavian works, fresh and funny. He was such a brave thinker, trying to get God and the devil in front of us, trying to call on the higher instincts of humans and show us our denial and hypocrisy, and spirit.
Mike Jensen
This is a smart satire on religious commitment, love in mixed cultures, and early Christianity. As usual, Shaw writes as if he has the final word, when his is only one perspective, but it is a powerful perspective that must be considered.
Dusty The2ofHarts-com
Classic Play Note: Although I read these plays in high school, I now have a copy of the 3 plays noted as "read," in the collection titled "3 Plays by George Bernard Shaw"
There's not much to say. Androcles and the Lion was my first ever read play as kid and coming back to it was super idea. I still love this.
This was my introduction to Shaw; rest assured I have every intention of reading many, many more of his works!
I like to breeze through his plays , to be entertained and not take him too seriously.
It's been years since I read it; I remember liking it well at the time.
Martha Treder
I love George Bernard Shaw and his commentary on human nature.
Laura Wetsel
Don't neglect the preface. I enjoyed it more than the play.
read this in high school ... it was fun
Denis Farley
I'm in awe of Shaw!
Elizabeth Turner
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George Bernard Shaw was an Irish playwright, socialist, and a co-founder of the London School of Economics. Although his first profitable writing was music and literary criticism, in which capacity he wrote many highly articulate pieces of journalism, his main talent was for drama. Over the course of his life he wrote more than 60 plays. Nearly all his plays address prevailing social problems, but ...more
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“The seriousness of throwing over hell whilst still clinging to the Atonement is obvious. If there is no punishment for sin there can be no self-forgiveness for it. If Christ paid our score, and if there is no hell and therefore no chance of our getting into trouble by forgetting the obligation, then we can be as wicked as we like with impunity inside the secular law, even from self-reproach, which becomes mere ingratitude to the Savior. On the other hand, if Christ did not pay our score, it still stands against us; and such debts make us extremely uncomfortable. The drive of evolution, which we call conscience and honor, seizes on such slips, and shames us to the dust for being so low in the scale as to be capable of them. The 'saved' thief experiences an ecstatic happiness which can never come to the honest atheist: he is tempted to steal again to repeat the glorious sensation. But if the atheist steals he has no such happiness. He is a thief and knows that he is a thief. Nothing can rub that off him. He may try to sooth his shame by some sort of restitution or equivalent act of benevolence; but that does not alter the fact that he did steal; and his conscience will not be easy until he has conquered his will to steal and changed himself into an honest man...

Now though the state of the believers in the atonement may thus be the happier, it is most certainly not more desirable from the point of view of the community. The fact that a believer is happier than a sceptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality of happiness, and by no means a necessity of life. Whether Socrates got as much happiness out of life as Wesley is an unanswerable question; but a nation of Socrateses would be much safer and happier than a nation of Wesleys; and its individuals would be higher in the evolutionary scale. At all events it is in the Socratic man and not in the Wesleyan that our hope lies now.

Consequently, even if it were mentally possible for all of us to believe in the Atonement, we should have to cry off it, as we evidently have a right to do. Every man to whom salvation is offered has an inalienable natural right to say 'No, thank you: I prefer to retain my full moral responsibility: it is not good for me to be able to load a scapegoat with my sins: I should be less careful how I committed them if I knew they would cost me nothing.'
“The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality of happiness, and by no means a necessity of life.” 233 likes
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