• David Clare
Part of the Bernard Shaw and His Contemporaries book series (BSC)


At the age of 75, Bernard Shaw told an interviewer that the happiest moment of his life was when as a child his mother informed him that his family was moving from Synge Street in the Dublin city center to a cottage on Dalkey Hill in south County Dublin.1 The young Shaw was so excited, because he already knew (and treasured) the magnificent view that is available from Dalkey Hill: the Wicklow Mountains and Killiney Bay to the south, the Hill of Howth to the north, and Dalkey Island and the Irish Sea directly below. Throughout his career, Shaw always insisted that it was “the beauty of Ireland” that gave Irish people their distinctive perspective, and, in his own case, he believed that it was the beauty of this particular view that helped to shape him into the visionary iconoclast that he was.2


Irish People Ireland Background American Boxer Happy Moment English Character 
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  1. 1.
    Michael Holroyd. Bernard Shaw Volume 1 (1856–1898): The Search for Love. London: Penguin, 1988. 27.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Bernard Shaw. “Shaw Speaks to His Native City (1946).” In The Matter with Ireland. Ed. Dan H. Laurence and David H. Greene. 2nd ed. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2001. 334–8. 334. During the course of this book, I cite several pieces from this selection of Shaw’s Irish writings. However, this is the only time that I will cite The Matter with Ireland’s full bibliographical details in the endnotes. Henceforth, the first time that I cite essays, articles, or letters from this volume in each chapter, I will indicate that they are from The Matter with Ireland and provide their complete page numbers; the rest of the bibliographical information for these pieces can—of course—be found in the Bibliography.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Bernard Shaw. “Ireland Eternal and External (1948).” In The Matter with Ireland. 339–41. 339.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    R. F. Dietrich. “Foreward.” In Shaw, Synge, Connolly, and Socialist Provocation. By Nelson O’Ceallaigh Ritschel. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2011. xi–xiii. xi. Emphasis in original.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    Critics and commentators during Shaw’s own lifetime and in the decades since have often referred to his habit of compulsively contradicting popular notions and overturning conventional stereotypes as “mere” or “typical” “Shavian perversity.” See, for example, Frank Wadleigh Chandler. Aspects of Modern Drama. London: Macmillan, 1914. 310; William Irvine. The Universe of G.B.S. New York: Russell, 1968. 283; Allardyce Nicoll. English Drama, 1900–1930: The Beginnings of the Modern Period. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973. 355; Nicholas Grene. Bernard Shaw: A Critical View. London: Macmillan, 1987. 30, 111; Nicholas Grene. “Introduction.” In Pygmalion. By Bernard Shaw. London: Penguin, 2003. xvii.Google Scholar
  6. 10.
    Bernard Shaw. John Bull’s Other Island. London: Penguin, 1984. 78.Google Scholar
  7. 13.
    Audrey McNamara. “Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan: An Irish Female Patriot.” ACIS Conference. University College Dublin. June 11, 2014. Conference Paper.Google Scholar
  8. 14.
    See Leonard W. Conolly. “Introduction.” In Pygmalion. By Bernard Shaw. London: Methuen/New Mermaids, 2008. xxv, xlix–l; A. M. Gibbs. Bernard Shaw: A Life. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2005. 331, 333; Arnold Silver. Bernard Shaw: The Darker Side. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1982. 180; Diderik Roll-Hansen. “Shaw’s Pygmalion: The Two Versions of 1916 and 1941.” Review of English Studies 8.3 (July 1967): 81–90; St John Irvine. Bernard Shaw: His Life, Work and Friends. London: Constable, 1956. 460. As regards Mrs Warren’s Profession and Misalliance, Nicholas Grene has previously discussed some of the dramaturgical issues in these works. (Grene, Bernard Shaw: A Critical View, 20–25, 101.) I would add some additional points to his astute observations. At the end of Act II in Mrs Warren’s Profession, Shaw intends that we feel uneasy about the reconciliation reached between Vivie Warren and her mother; we are meant to sense that this is a peace predicated on misunderstanding. Specifically, he wants us to spot that Mrs Warren only discusses the brothel she used to run with her sister in Brussels, and we are therefore meant to assume that the previously shrewd Vivie has naïvely concluded that her mother is no longer a brothel keeper (despite the fact that Mrs Warren still works on the continent and will not tell Vivie exactly what she does). Needless to add, given Vivie’s intelligence, such an assumption is not automatic for audience members. Shaw’s other subtle indication that all is not well at the end of Act II is the final line of the stage directions, in which he writes that Mrs Warren “embraces her daughter protectingly, instinctively looking upward for divine sanction.” (Bernard Shaw. Mrs Warren’s Profession. In Plays Unpleasant. London: Penguin, 2000. 179–286. 252.) In every performance I have seen of this play—including high-profile productions at the Abbey’s Peacock Theatre in 2000 and the Gate Theatre in 2013—this non-verbal unease has proven impossible to communicate. As a result, audience members who believe that Vivie reconciled with her mother while in full possession of the facts—and who have failed to spot Mrs Warren’s mimed supplication—find it confusing when it is later revealed that Vivie assumed that her mother was no longer involved in the so-called White Slave Trade; for such audience members, it feels like a fresh complication plucked out of the air. Shaw should have indicated more clearly in the dialogue towards the end of Act II that Mrs Warren was withholding information and that Vivie (despite her smarts and independence of mind) is credulous enough to reach such an erroneous conclusion. In Misalliance, the acrobat Lina Szczepanowska’s shocking entrance and her extraordinary claim that, every day for the past 150 years, a member of her family has deliberately risked their lives as a point of honor stun audiences who thought they were witnessing a relatively straightforward, naturalistic comedy of ideas. While this scene (and others like it) inspired an admiring Bertolt Brecht to call Shaw a theatrical “terrorist,” productions of Misalliance are usually bent out of shape by this sudden intrusion of expressionism and, in my experience, seldom recover. (Bertolt Brecht. “Ovation for Shaw.” In G.B. Shaw: A Collection of Critical Essays. Ed. R. J. Kaufmann. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1965. 15–18. 15. This essay was originally written in 1926.)Google Scholar
  9. 15.
    Three strong Shaw plays that are not analyzed in this study (because of their lack of obvious Irish content) are Widowers’ Houses (1892), Arms and the Man (1894), and Village Wooing (1933). However, Nelson O’Ceallaigh Ritschel, Declan Kiberd, and Michael Holroyd have found evidence of the Irish Shaw even in these. For Widowers’ Houses, see Nelson O’Ceallaigh Ritschel. Shaw, Synge, Connolly, and Socialist Provocation. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2011. 9–17. For Arms and the Man, see Declan Kiberd. Irish Classics. London: Granta, 2000. 340–59. For Village Wooing, see the comparison of the Irishman Shaw with the character of A in Michael Holroyd. Bernard Shaw Volume 3 (1919–1950): The Lure of Fantasy. New York: Vintage, 1991. 331–3. It should be admitted that some of the plays analyzed and promoted in this study arguably have—like the interesting but flawed plays slighted above—dramaturgical issues: I am thinking specifically of Major Barbara, The Doctor’s Dilemma, and Heartbreak House. These plays are, however, still fascinating, and, like most Shaw plays, are more compelling in performance than one would ever guess from just reading the scripts. (For sensitive discussions of the dramaturgical issues in these plays, see Grene, Bernard Shaw: A Critical View, 52, 78, 84–100, 114–31.)Google Scholar

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