The Politics and Plays of Bernard Shaw


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About the Book

Do politics and the playhouse go together? For Bernard Shaw they most certainly did. As a playwright with a message he saw the theatre as the ideal medium for conveying his view of life, which was essentially socialistic. The theatre was to Shaw a latter-day temple of the arts within a community.
But Shaw was, of course, multi-voiced, not only through the characters he created but also in his own persona as public speaker, essayist, tract writer and author of works on political economy. Much of the thinking that is expressed in his non-dramatic works is contained also in his plays.
This work offers a readily accessible means of looking at the nature and the progression of Shaw’s thinking. All the plays included in the major canon are reviewed and, except for brief plays and playlets (which are grouped), they are presented in sequential order.

About the Author(s)

The late Judith Evans, retired from the Education Department of the Warwick County Council, and lived in Warwickshire, United Kingdom.

Bibliographic Details

Judith Evans
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 225
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2003
pISBN: 978-0-7864-1323-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     v
Preface     1

PART I: Politics and the Playhouse (1876–1911)
1 Shaw Joins the London Intelligentsia    5
2 Shaw Joins the Fabian Society    7
3 Fabian Essays in Socialism: Shaw as Editor and Essayist    10
4 The Fabian Tracts: Shaw as Tract Writer and Editor    15
5 Shaw and the Theatre    17
6 A New Theory of Drama and a New Philosophy: Major Critical Essays and the Preface to Three Plays by Brieux    20
7 Plays Unpleasant   & 27
8 Plays Pleasant    34
9 Plays About Empire: Three Plays for Puritans and The Admirable Bashville    41
10 Creative Evolution Comes to the Theatre: Man and Superman—A Comedy and a Philosophy    48
11 Aspects of Twentieth-Century Society Presented in the Drama    58
12 The Playwright with the Fabian Touch: Fanny’s First Play    75
13 The Drama in Brief    78
14 A Time of Definition    86

PART II: The Horizons of War: A European Playwright (1912–1919)
15 The Politics of War and of Peace    91
16 A New Arena: What I Really Wrote About the War    94
17 Two Plays Written Before the First World War: Androcles and the Lion and Pygmalion    99
18 Playlets About Marriage and Sexual Deviance    106
19 Playlets Written During the War    109
20 Heartbreak House: A Fantasia in the Russian Manner on English Themes    115
21 Back to Methuselah: A Metabiological Pentateuch    123
22 A Widening of Vision    132

PART III: “All the World’s a Stage” for the Political Playwright (1920–1939)
23 The Years of Acclaim    137
24 “The Most Important Book Since the Bible”: The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism and Capitalism    139
25 “The League of Nations”: Shaw Visits Geneva    143
26 Shaw’s Last Fabian Tract    146
27 A New Politicization of the Drama and a New Theatrical Venue    150
28 Saint Joan: A Chronicle Play in Six Scenes and an Epilogue    151
29 Two Political Extravaganzas: The Apple Cart and Too True to Be Good    154
30 Two More Plays in Partnership: On the Rocks and The Simpleton of the Unexpected Isles    163
31 Life Outside Politics: Village Wooing and The Millionairess    169
32 A Minor Playlet: The Six of Calais; and Two Major Plays: Geneva and “In Good King Charles’s Golden Days”    174
33 A Critical Question Remains Unanswered    183

PART IV: A Reluctant Icon (1940–1950)
34 The World’s Mentor    187
35 Everybody’s Political What’s What? A Political Finale    190
36 The Last Years of a Playwright    193
37 Two Post-Atomic Plays: Buoyant Billions and Farfetched Fables    194
38 Shakes versus Shav: A Puppet Play, and a Conclusion    199

Notes    201
Bibliography    209
Index    213

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “Accessible…recommended”—Library Journal