ABSTRACT

Drawing on Roberto Esposito’s thinking manifested in his bio-communitas-immunitas trilogy, this paper discusses dynamic boundary of self and the other in biological and political communities contextualized in the discourses of health and medical system in George Bernard Shaw’s The Doctor’s Dilemma: A Tragedy (1906). The play is a response to William Archer who challenges Shaw to write a tragedy involving “the King of Terrors” (death), and despites its subtitle, it is tuned as a burlesque featuring some farcical medicine men. Shaw’s salient opposition of Pasteur’s germ theory, which makes vaccination an ultimate citadel for the body, is demonstrated through the caricature of doctors and their deficient scientific viewpoints. His lament on the decline of humanity is seen through the pecuniary-driven medical practitioners whose treatments depend unduly large on time trends. Shaw points out: “one of our most pressing social needs is a national staff of doctors whom we believe in, and whose prosperity shall depend not on the nation’s sickness but on its health.” The paper approaches Shaw’s vision of a (healthier) community through his interplay of a comedy and a tragedy. To make what he considers a tragedy into a farce not only registers his mocking and critical stance over an issue of life and death (community), but offers his vision and aspiration of an alternative community where medical practitioners are not immune from a humane duty suggested in their career titles.

KEYWORDS: George Bernard Shaw, The Doctor’s Dilemma: A Tragedy, community, comedy, tragedy, Roberto Esposito

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