Critical Perspectives

  • A. M. Gibbs


As in his lifetime, so in the years following his death in 1950 critical opinion about Shaw has been sharply divided. The same dramatist whom one critic describes as ‘a great creative genius’,1 and another regards as a writer of plays which ‘can scarcely prove other than lastingly delightful’,2 is seen by others as a spent force3 and ‘as a creative artist only a minor figure’.4 His plays continue to be performed more frequently in the English theatre than those of any other playwright except Shakespeare.5 But his reception in academic circles is often unenthusiastic or hostile. His powers as a dramatic artist are often acclaimed,6 but a strong critical tradition persists in which he is seen as a playwright who sacrificed artistic integrity to the designs of purveying ideas and orchestrating debate about social problems. Judged by some to be the greatest English dramatist since Shakespeare and Jonson, Shaw is yet seen in some critical accounts as a writer of thesis plays.


Critical Perspective Middle Period Late Play Romantic Ideal Artistic Integrity 
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  1. 1.
    Peter Ure, ‘Master and Pupil in Bernard Shaw’, Essays in Criticism, vol. xox, no. 2 (1969) p. 139.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    J. I. M. Stewart, Eight Modern Writers (Oxford University Press, 1963) p. 183.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    T. R. Barnes, ‘Shaw and the London Theatre’, in The Modern Age: The Pelican Guide to English Literature, ed. Boris Ford, vol. 7 (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1961) p. 213.Google Scholar

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© A. M. Gibbs 1983

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  • A. M. Gibbs

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