Fabian socialist and ardent proselytizer, George Bernard Shaw viewed his role as a playwright as far more than that of an entertainer. His audiences heard fully articulated sermons on moral and economic issues, a potentially dry theatrical experience enlivened by Shaw's genius for creating vital characters and scintillating dialogue. Major Barbara offers a sparkling example of its author's unique gift for presenting social theories in an engaging format.The eponymous heroine, an officer in the Salvation Army, is the daughter of Andrew Undershaft, a wealthy armaments manufacturer. When the Army accepts donations from Undershaft and a whiskey distiller, whose money Barbara regards as tainted, she resigns in disgust, but eventually sees the truth of her father's reasoning that social iniquity derives from poverty; it is only through accumulating wealth and power that people can help each other.
Major Barbara is thought to be one of Shaw's most controversial works. While trying to give a realistic presentation of how he saw Christianity, many accused him of blasphemy. Major Barbara Undershaft thought it hypocrisy that her church accepted charity from companies, such as a whisky distiller, and eventually decided that it would be more fulfilling to bring salvation to people who had plenty of vises, the people in need. Shaw intended to show that no matter how terrible the donor may be, the donation can produce good.
One of Shaw's finest and most devilish comedies, Man and Superman portrays Don Juan as the quarry instead of the huntsman. John Tanner, upon discovering that his beautiful ward plans to marry him, flees to the Sierra Nevada mountain range, where he is captured by a group of rebels. Tanner falls asleep, and dreams the famous "Don Juan in Hell" sequence, which features a sparkling Shavian debate among Don Juan, the Devil, and a talkative statue. With its fairy-tale ending and a cast literally from hell, Man and Superman is a hilarious cocktail of farce, Nietzschean philosophy, and Mozart's Don Giovanni.
George Bernard Shaw demanded truth and despised convention. He punctured hollow pretensions and smug prudishness--coating his criticism with ingenious and irreverent wit. In Mrs. Warren's Profession, Arms and the Man, Candida, and Man and Superman, the great playwright satirizes society, military heroism, marriage, and the pursuit of man by woman. From a social, literary, and theatrical standpoint, these four plays are among the foremost dramas of the age--as intellectually stimulating as they are thoroughly enjoyable. "My way of joking is to tell the truth: It is the funniest joke in the world."--G. B. Shaw With an Introduction by Eric Bentley and an Afterword by Norman Lloyd
One of George Bernard Shaw's best-known plays, Pygmalion was a rousing success on the London and New York stages, an entertaining motion picture and a great hit with its musical version, My Fair Lady. An updated and considerably revised version of the ancient Greek legend of Pygmalion and Galatea, the 20th-century story pokes fun at the antiquated British class system. In Shaw's clever adaptation, Professor Henry Higgins, a linguistic expert, takes on a bet that he can transform an awkward cockney flower seller into a refined young lady simply by polishing her manners and changing the way she speaks. In the process of convincing society that his creation is a mysterious royal figure, the Professor also falls in love with his elegant handiwork.The irresistible theme of the emerging butterfly, together with Shaw's brilliant dialogue and splendid skills as a playwright, have made Pygmalion one of the most popular comedies in the English language. A staple of college drama courses, it is still widely performed.
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