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In what ways is it possible to consider George Bernard Shaw's plays as theatrical...

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orsolyam | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 27, 2012 at 4:04 PM via web

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In what ways is it possible to consider George Bernard Shaw's plays as theatrical manifestations of Shaw's socialist ideas and how are they connected to Henrick Ibsen?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 27, 2012 at 7:27 PM (Answer #1)

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Many of George Bernard Shaw's plays were intended to illustrate socialist ideas about economics, politics, and gender relations. One of the reasons that it is very important to read Shaw's prefaces to his plays is that he very clearly sets out what is intentions are in writing the plays and often discusses the ideological points that the plays are making. Even Shaw's stage directions add significant interpretive points.

Many of Shaw's plays illustrate the Marxist tenet that money is power and that economic interests determine ideology. Unlike Marx himself though, Shaw sees the operation of economic power not as impersonal, but as mediated through character types, such as the "superman" Undershaft in Major Barbara.

Shaw's Quintessence of Ibsenism discusses not only stagecraft but also how Ibsen's character types and treatment of gender anticipate many of Shaw's own ideas. What Shaw sees in Ibsen as linking stagecraft and socialism is the notion of the personal as the political and personal relationships as both embedded in economic power relations and creating ideologies which affect the political realm.

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