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George Bernard Shaw - Essay Example

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The social themes present within Pygmalion and other more or less "political" plays had a profound influence upon a number of different dramas. While political theatre may in many ways be traced to the very beginnings of Western drama in Ancient Greece (Fischer-Lichte, 2005), in recent times it was Shaw who introduced the idea that a play could be both political and entertaining.
The influence of Pygmalion is difficult to exaggerate. First, it provided the opportunity for playwrights to use language in a way that they had not been able to before. Shaw provided playwrights working in the late Twenteith Century with an impetus to use language/plot that was considered scandalous. It may seem quaint today, but at the time the fact that Eliza says "not bloody likely (Shaw, 1980) was seen as scandalous and shocking. Characters in proper drama on the West End simply did not swear. Shaw received complaints about the 'swearing' but kept the language in because he said it was the realistic vernacular of the person within that situation (Innes, 1998). The subject matter of Mrs Warren's Professioni (prostitution), especially the fact that it was tackled in a manner which showed the pressures that society puts on women that causes them to become prostitutes, also received a good deal of public criticism. But because Shaw believed in his own plays, and refused to change a word because of the apparently over-sensitive feelings of some, he paved the way for much later playwrights.
Take the example of Edward Bond, whose Saved in 1965 was the subject of much controversy because of its language and subject matter. The young, working-class and unemployed people in the play constantly swear because this is just about all they have left within a society that has brutalized them. It was one particular scene, in which the characters stone a baby to death in its baby carriage, which caused the Lord Chamberlain to ask that that subject be cut from the play or the play would be banned. As in Shaw's day, any play put on in London still had to be officially approved by the Lord Chamberlain, a power dating from a 1737 law.
Bond, following the Shavian tradition, refused to change that scene - saying that it was an essential part of the play's climax, showing the depths to which the characters had sunk. The Royal Court Theatre became a "private club" in order to stage the play, but the Chamberlain prosecuted the English Stage Company for producing the play even in that location. Shaw was well-known to have as much sense of humor within his life as within his plays, and was always askance at authority that appeared to be arbitrarily used. He would thus have supported Bond's next theatrical event, Early Morning (1967), a tongue-in-cheek play in which Queen Victoria has a lesbian relationship with Florence Nightingale, the princes are Siamese twins, Prince Albert and Disraeli plan a coup throughout and then the whole cast of characters is damned to be cannibalized in Heaven after falling off Beach Head.
This play was perhaps designed to incur the wrath of the Lord Chamberlain in virtually every scene. He banned it, the English Stage Company ignored the banned, and the archaic power curtailment of free speech represented by the Lord ...Show more


George Bernard Shaw was a giant figure within the intellectual, political and theatrical fields in the Twentieth Century. Because he lived so long (into his nineties), his legacy spread throughout a number of different endeavors, but there is a recurring theme throughout all his work…
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George Bernard Shaw
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