Character Analysis Roebuck Ramsden


"Annie's Granny" is the old-fashioned liberal holding on to views advanced some years ago. Among his heroes are John Bright (1811-1889), outstanding spokesman for the industrialists and opponent of the Corn Laws; and Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), English philosopher, known for his application of scientific doctrines of evolution to philosophy and ethics. Shaw describes him as a man of means living in ease and comfort, and tells us that Ramsden is "more than a respectable man: he is marked out as a president of highly respectable men." His active civil life has given him "his broad air of importance." Harmlessly vain and rather smug, he has been used to having his views prevail. His opening discourse with Octavius reveals him as the pontifical master of platitudes. It is with reason that Jack Tanner calls him Polonius, the vain Lord Chamberlain to King Claudius in Hamlet. Although he prides himself on his "progressive" position, he is the complete conformist. As Shaw tells us, even the clothes he wears "harmonize with the religions of respectable men." He invariably holds to his moth-eaten opinions and to his favorite authors, recoiling in dismay, if not horror, when a brand new idea is introduced. Ramsden denies that Tanner's Revolutionist's Handbook is too advanced for him. Yet he refuses to read the copy which had been sent to him. Moreover, when his alleged liberalism is put to the test by the report concerning Violet, he fails. Clever Jack Tanner has little difficulty in forcing him to forego his "duty" and abnegate his "principles" relating to the English home. Playing up to him as the prototype of the Victorian Womanly Woman, Ann Whitefield knows just how to handle Ramsden. His shocked outbursts in response to Tanner's sweeping generalizations provide much of the fun in the first two acts of the play.

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