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George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) is revered as one of the great British dramatists, credited not only with memorable works, but the revival of the then-suffering English theatre. Shaw was born in Dublin, Ireland, left mostly to his own devices after his mother ran off to London to pursue a musical career. He educated himself for the most part, and eventually worked for a real estate agent. This experience founded in him a concern for social injustices, seeing poverty and general unfairness afoot, and would go on to address this in many of his works. In 1876, Shaw joined his mother in London where he would finally attain literary success. First performed in 1892, "Widower's Houses" was the first of Shaw's plays to see the stage. This play was included in a collection of plays called "Plays Unpleasant," named so because Shaw's intention in writing them was not to entertain, but to raise awareness in certain areas of social concern. The source of social concern here in this play is the income derived from slum housing and the play focuses on the rift it forms between the two main characters, Henry Trench who has a moral problem with the way the father of his wife earns his money and his wife, Blanch who has no problem taking money from her father.
"I had no taste for what is called popular art, no respect for popular morality, no belief in popular religion, no admiration for popular heroics"With 'Plays Unpleasant', therefore, Shaw broke all the rules governing how a playwright should entertain his audience. In 'Widowers' Houses', Harry Trench is engaged to brisk Blanche Sarto-rius. When he realizes that her father is a slum landlord, Harry questions whether he and Blanche have a future together. In 'The Philanderer' charismatic Leonard Charteris is the philanderer who proposes marriage to Grace, while still involved with the beautiful Julia Craven. But Julia is not inclined to surrender him so easily. In 'Mrs Warren's Profession', Vivie discovers that her mother's immoral earnings have paid for her genteel upbringing. Will she be able to accept her mother for herself?
Bernard Shaw's unique place among English critics has been recognized since the time he wrote the famous weekly assessments of the contemporary theatre in The Saturday Review from January 1895 to May 1898. The author collected those essays in the three volumes titled Our Theatres in the Nineties, but the present selection is the first to appear in a single volume. It contains some forty complete essays chosen to provide a representative cross-section of English theatre history in the eighteen-nineties. The Introduction examines Shaw's qualities as a critic, pointing to the remarkable body of knowledge with which he sustained his judgments and the invariable intellectual courtesy and serious consideration with which he approached his weekly task, and to the wit with which he lightened it. Shakespeare, Ibsen, Wilde, and Pinero are among the playwrights, Irving, Ellen Terry, Mrs. Patrick Campbell, Forbes-Robertson, Bernhardt, and Duse, among the players, to whom Shaw's attention was particularly given in the essays reprinted here. He is seen championing Shakespeare the poet as emphatically as Isben the social thinker, while his campaign to convert Irving to Ibsenism is seen in the essays and is discussed temperately in the Introduction.Keywords: Bernard Shaw Mrs Patrick Campbell Nineties English Critics Contemporary Theatre Theatre History Complete Essays Ellen Terry Remarkable Body Pinero Duse Body Of Knowledge Unique Place Bernhardt Playwrights Cross Section Judgments Forbes Wit English History

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