What is the significance of the title "Heartbreak House"?

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One important thing to do when studying plays of George Bernard Shaw such as Heartbreak House is to read the Prefaces quite carefully. Shaw is unusual among playwrights in that his Prefaces, which were not actually performed, but which accompany the published versions of his plays are both illuminating and entertaining.

In his Preface, Shaw discusses the phrase "Heartbreak House" in some detail, offering up "heartbreak house" and "horseback hall" as a way of dividing the English upper classes that both recalls and updates Matthew Arnold's Barbarians and Philistines.

Both divisions abrogate the old sense of noblesse oblige, in focusing, in the one case, on personal relationships and the other on sports.


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