Major Barbara

Summary

Act III: Part Two

Summary Act III: Part Two

Faith of the Armorer, with its dictums engraved on the ceiling of the Undershaft church, supplants Christianity, and serves as a new religion. Undershaft emerges as this faith's dark Messiah or Antichrist, acting like Jesus on behalf of a greater will that is also his own. In selling his soul to him and becoming his successor, Cusins must shed his identity and become Saint Andrew reborn, swearing to the creed that keeps the armory in business for eternity. Thus, Shaw binds salvation to the immortality of the arms industry and its sainted patrons.

As Undershaft's final volatile speech will make clear, this will is decidedly violent, relying on murder as the primary act by which it would exact its desires. The dummy soldiers and Undershaft's telegram underscore the murders that support this ideal community. It is not for nothing that the idyllic community has been erected in the shadow of death-bearing explosives.

Finally, we should note that Undershaft secures the firm's legacy at the expense of Lazarus, the absent partner Undershaft describes as "gentle romantic Jew" who cares for nothing but "string quartets and stalls at fashionable theaters." Apparently he serves as a screen, with Cusins and Undershaft both knowing that he can suffer the blame for their rapacity for money. This twist in the play exemplifies the cutthroat practices that make Undershaft's ideal community possible, and an insidious fantasy of how anti-Semitism might be deployed for man's salvation.