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Major Barbara (New Mermaids) Bernard Shaw: Nicholas Grene: Methuen Drama

He wrote plays for the rest of his life, but very few of them were as successful — or were as often revived — as his earlier work. The Apple Cart was probably his most popular work of this era. John Ervine, passages that are equal to Shaw's major works. Shaw's published plays come with lengthy prefaces. These tend to be more about Shaw's opinions on the issues addressed by the plays than about the plays themselves.

Often his prefaces are longer than the plays they introduce. For example, the Penguin Books edition of his one-act The Shewing-up Of Blanco Posnet has a page preface for the page playscript. The texts of plays by Shaw mentioned in this section, with the dates when they were written and first performed, can be found in Complete Plays and Prefaces. I, as a Socialist, have had to preach, as much as anyone, the enormous power of the environment. We can change it; we must change it; there is absolutely no other sense in life than the task of changing it.

What is the use of writing plays, what is the use of writing anything, if there is not a will which finally moulds chaos itself into a race of gods. Thus he viewed writing as a way to further his humanitarian and political agenda. His works were very popular because of their comedic content, but the public tended to disregard his messages and enjoy his work as pure entertainment.

He was acutely aware of that.

Complete Plays by George Bernard Shaw

His preface to Heartbreak House attributes its rejection to the need of post-World War I audiences for frivolities, after four long years of grim privation, more than to their inborn distaste of instruction. His crusading nature led him to adopt and tenaciously hold a variety of causes, which he furthered with fierce intensity, heedless of opposition and ridicule. His stance ran counter to public sentiment and cost him dearly at the box-office, but he never compromised. Shaw joined in the public opposition to vaccination against smallpox, calling it "a peculiarly filthy piece of witchcraft", despite having nearly died from the disease in In the preface to Doctor's Dilemma he made it plain he regarded traditional medical treatment as dangerous quackery that should be replaced with sound public sanitation, good personal hygiene and diets devoid of meat.

Shaw became a vegetarian when he was twenty-five, after hearing a lecture by H. In , remembering the experience, he said "I was a cannibal for twenty-five years. For the rest I have been a vegetarian. The belief in the immorality of eating animals was one of the Fabian causes near his heart and is frequently a topic in his plays and prefaces. His position, succinctly stated, was "A man of my spiritual intensity does not eat corpses.

As well as plays and prefaces, Shaw wrote long political treatises, such as Fabian Essays in Socialism , and The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism and Capitalism , a page book detailing all aspects of socialistic theory as Shaw interpreted it. Excerpts of the latter were republished in as Socialism and Liberty , Late in his life he wrote another guide to political issues, Everybody's Political What's What Shaw corresponded with an array of people, many of them well-known.

His letters to and from Mrs. Wells, have also been published. Eventually the volume of his correspondence became insupportable, as can be inferred from apologetic letters written by assistants. Shaw campaigned against the executions of the rebel leaders of the Easter Rising, and he became a personal friend of the Cork-born IRA leader Michael Collins, whom he invited to his home for dinner while Collins was negotiating the Anglo-Irish Treaty with Lloyd George in London.

After Collins's assassination in , Shaw sent a personal message of condolence to one of Collins's sisters. He much admired and was admired by G. When Chesterton died, Shaw mourned his death in a poignant letter to Chesterton's widow; he had always expected that he would predecease Chesterton, being the latter's senior by almost two decades. Shaw also enjoyed a somewhat stormy friendship with T.

Lawrence even used the name "Shaw" as his nom de guerre when he joined the Royal Air Force as an aircraftman in the s.


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Another friend was the composer Edward Elgar, whose work Shaw revered. Though Elgar was a Conservative, they had interests, besides music, in common — for instance both opposed vivisection. Elgar dedicated one of his late works, The Severn Suite , to Shaw; and Shaw exerted himself eventually with success to persuade the BBC to commission from Elgar a third symphony, though this piece remained incomplete at Elgar's death.

Shaw's correspondence with the motion picture producer Gabriel Pascal, who was the first to bring Shaw's plays successfully to the screen and who later tried to put into motion a musical adaptation of Pygmalion , but died before he could realize it, is published in a book titled Bernard Shaw and Gabriel Pascal.

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It is available on DVD. Shaw bought his first camera in and was an active amateur photographer until his death in Before Shaw had been an early supporter of photography as a serious art form. His non-fiction writing includes many reviews of photographic exhibitions such as those by his friend Alvin Langdon Coburn.

The photographs document a prolific literary and political life — Shaw's friends, travels, politics, plays, films and home life. It also records his experiments with photography over 50 years and for the photographic historian provides a record of the development of the photographic and printing techniques available to the amateur photographer between and Shaw asserted that each social class strove to serve its own ends, and that the upper and middle classes won in the struggle while the working class lost.

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George Bernard Shaw

He condemned the democratic system of his time, saying that workers, ruthlessly exploited by greedy employers, lived in abject poverty and were too ignorant and apathetic to vote intelligently. He believed this deficiency would ultimately be corrected by the emergence of long-lived supermen with experience and intelligence enough to govern properly.

George Bernard Shaw – Top 10 Inspirational Quotes

He called the developmental process elective breeding but it is sometimes referred to as shavian eugenics , largely because he thought it was driven by a "Life Force" that led women — subconsciously — to select the mates most likely to give them superior children. The outcome Shaw envisioned is dramatised in Back to Methuselah , a monumental play depicting human development from its beginning in the Garden of Eden until the distant future. In , influenced by Henry George's view that the rent value of land belongs to all, Shaw concluded that private ownership of land and its exploitation for personal profit was a form of theft, and advocated equitable distribution of land and natural resources and their control by governments intent on promoting the commonwealth.


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Shaw believed that income for individuals should come solely from the sale of their own labour and that poverty could be eliminated by giving equal pay to everyone. Hyndman who introduced him to the works of Karl Marx. Shaw never joined the SDF, which favoured forcible reforms. Instead, in , he joined the newly formed Fabian Society, which accorded with his belief that reform should be gradual and induced by peaceful means rather than by outright revolution. Shaw was an active Fabian. He wrote many of their pamphlets, lectured tirelessly on behalf of their causes and provided money to set up The New Age , an independent socialist journal.

As a Fabian, he participated in the formation of the Labour Party. The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism and Capitalism provides a clear statement of his socialistic views. As evinced in plays like Major Barbara and Pygmalion , class struggle is a motif in much of Shaw's writing. Oscar Wilde was the sole literary signatory of Shaw's petition for a pardon of the anarchists arrested and later executed after the Haymarket massacre in Chicago in Shaw opposed the execution of Sir Roger Casement in He wrote a letter "as an Irishman" to The Times, which they rejected, but it was subsequently printed by both the Manchester Guardian on 22 July , and by the New York American on 13 August Shaw was not necessarily better informed about actual conditions in other countries than other people were at the time, and tended to believe the best of people who professed similar principles to those he held himself.

This led to him taking some positions that now seem grotesque. On 11 October he broadcast a lecture on American national radio telling his audience that any 'skilled workman Shaw continued this support for Stalin's system in the preface to his play On the Rocks writing:.

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But the most elaborate code of this sort would still have left unspecified a hundred ways in which wreckers of Communism could have sidetracked it without ever having to face the essential questions: are you pulling your weight in the social boat? That is why the Russians were forced to set up an Inquisition or Star Chamber, called at first the Cheka and now the Gay Pay Oo Ogpu , to go into these questions and "liquidate" persons who could not answer them satisfactorily.

Put shortly and undramatically the case is that a civilization cannot progress without criticism, and must therefore, to save itself from stagnation and putrefaction, declare impunity for criticism. This means impunity not only for propositions which, however novel, seem interesting, statesmanlike, and respectable, but for propositions that shock the uncritical as obscene, seditious, blasphemous, heretical, and revolutionary. In an open letter to the Manchester Guardian in , he dismissed stories—which were later determined to be largely substantiated—of a Soviet famine as slanderous, and contrasts them with the hardships then current in the West during the Great Depression:.

We desire to record that we saw nowhere evidence of such economic slavery, privation, unemployment and cynical despair of betterment as are accepted as inevitable and ignored by the press as having "no news value" in our own countries. It sounds simple; but the process requires better planning than is always forthcoming with local famines and revolts as the penalty ; for while the grass grows the steed starves; and when education means not only schools and teachers, but giant collective farms equipped with the most advanced agricultural machinery, which means also gigantic engineering works for the production of the machinery, you may easily find that you have spent too much on these forms of capitalization and are running short of immediately consumable goods, presenting the spectacle of the nation with the highest level of general culture running short of boots and tightening its belt for lack of sufficient food.

I must not suggest that this has occurred all over Russia; for I saw no underfed people there; and the children were remarkably plump. And I cannot trust the reports; for I have no sooner read in The Times a letter from Mr Kerensky assuring me that in the Ukraine the starving people are eating one another, than M. Herriot, the eminent French statesman, goes to Russia and insists on visiting the Ukraine so that he may have ocular proof of the alleged cannibalism, but can find no trace of it.

Still, between satiety and starvation mitigated by cannibalism there are many degrees of shortage; and it is no secret that the struggle of the Russian Government to provide more collective farms and more giant factories to provide agricultural machinery for them has to be carried on against a constant clamor from the workers for new boots and clothes, and more varied food and more of it: in short, less sacrifice of the present to the future.

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He wrote a defence of Lysenkoism in a letter to Labour Monthly , in which he asserted that an "acquired characteristic" could be heritable, writing of Lysenko: "Following up Michurin's agricultural experiments he found that it is possible to extend the area of soil cultivation by breeding strains of wheat that flourish in a sub-Arctic climate, and transmit this acquired characteristic to its seed.

Lysenko is on the right side as a Vitalist; but the situation is confused by the purely verbal snag that Marx called his philosophy Dialectical Materialism. Now in Russia Marx is a Pontif; and all scientists who do not call themselves Materialists must be persecuted. Accordingly, Lysenko has to pretend that he is a Materialist when he is in fact a Vitalist; and thus muddles us ludicrously.

Marxism seems to have gone as mad as Weismannism; and it is no longer surprising that Marx had to insist that he was not a Marxist. According to Shaw "The voice of the Irish gentleman and Spanish grandee was a welcome relief from the chorus of retaliatory rancor and self-righteousness then deafening us". Shaw delivered speeches on the theory of eugenics and he became a noted figure in the movement in England.

The main character in the play, John Tanner, is the author of "The Revolutionist's Handbook and Pocket Companion", which Shaw published along with his play.

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In the "Property and Marriage" section Tanner writes:. To cut humanity up into small cliques, and effectively limit the selection of the individual to his own clique, is to postpone the Superman for eons, if not for ever. Not only should every person be nourished and trained as a possible parent, but there should be no possibility of such an obstacle to natural selection as the objection of a countess to a navvy or of a duke to a charwoman.

Equality is essential to good breeding; and equality, as all economists know, is incompatible with property. In this Shaw was managing to synthesize eugenics with socialism, his best-loved political doctrine. This was a popular concept at the time. When, in , Shaw wrote that natural attraction rather than wealth or social class should govern selection of marriage partners, the concept of eugenics did not have the negative connotations it later acquired after having been adopted by the Nazis of Germany.

Shaw sometimes treated the topic in a light-hearted way, pointing out that if eugenics had been thought about some generations previously, he himself may not have been born, so depriving humanity of his great contributions.

He seems to have maintained his opinion throughout his life. As with many of the topics that Shaw addressed, but particularly so in his examination of the "social purity" movement, he used irony, misdirection and satire to make his point. At a meeting of the Eugenics Education Society of 3 March he suggested the need to use a "lethal chamber" to solve their problem.

Shaw said: "We should find ourselves committed to killing a great many people whom we now leave living, and to leave living a great many people whom we at present kill. We should have to get rid of all ideas about capital punishment In a newsreel interview released on 5 March , dealing with alternatives to the imprisonment of criminals, Shaw says. You must all know half a dozen people at least who are no use in this world, who are more trouble than they are worth. Just put them there and say Sir, or Madam, now will you be kind enough to justify your existence?

If you can't justify your existence, if you're not pulling your weight in the social boat, if you're not producing as much as you consume or perhaps a little more, then, clearly, we cannot use the organizations of our society for the purpose of keeping you alive, because your life does not benefit us and it can't be of very much use to yourself. Shaw, however, often used satiric irony in order to mock those who took eugenics to inhumane extremes and commentators have sometimes failed to take this into account. Some noticed that this was an example of Shaw satirically employing the reductio ad absurdum argument against the eugenicists' wilder aspirations: The Globe and The Evening News recognised it as a skit on the dreams of the eugenicists, though many others in the press took his words out of their satirical context.

Dan Stone of Liverpool University writes: "Either the press believed Shaw to be serious, and vilified him, or recognised the tongue-in-cheek nature of his lecture". In his will, Shaw stated that his "religious convictions and scientific views cannot at present be more specifically defined than as those of a believer in Creative Evolution. Until he was thirty or so, Shaw called himself an Atheist.

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