George Shaw Bernard Criticism: General Commentary - Essay

Arthur Ganz (essay date December 1971)

(Drama Criticism)

SOURCE: Ganz, Arthur. “The Ascent to Heaven: A Shavian Pattern (Early Plays, 1894-1898).” Modern Drama 14, no. 3 (December 1971): 253-63.

[In the following essay, Ganz discusses the negative vision in Shaw's early plays, contending that there is a recurring pattern of his characters withdrawing from the real world into an intellectual, contemplative existence.]

It is the peculiar character of Shaw's plays that from the first they embody Romantic optimism and Romantic disillusion simultaneously. One is reminded of William Archer's account of seeing Shaw for the first time in the British Museum studying alternately the French translation of Das Kapital and the...

(The entire section is 4877 words.)

Barbara J. Small (essay date May 1979)

(Drama Criticism)

SOURCE: Small, Barbara J. “Rhetorical Style in Shaw's Plays.” Shaw Review 22, no. 2 (May 1979): 79-88.

[In the following essay, Small contends that Shaw's plays were conceived and written more in the rhetorical tradition than in a realistic style.]

What Raina wants is the extremity of style—style—Comedie Francaise, Queen of Spain style. Do you hear, worthless wretch that you are?


—G. B. S. to Lillah McCarthy, 6 February 1908

Although Shaw, for the most part, used realistic subject matter and language that on the surface...

(The entire section is 4756 words.)

Rodelle Weintraub (essay date May 1980)

(Drama Criticism)

SOURCE: Weintraub, Rodelle. “The Irish Lady in Shaw's Plays.” Shaw Review 23, no. 2 (May 1980): 77-89.

[In the following essay, Weintraub identifies Shaw's wife, Charlotte Payne Townsend, as a model for the strong, independent female characters in his plays.]

Unlike most playwrights since Shakespeare, “St. Bernard,” patron saint of the women's movement, as Bernard Shaw jestingly referred to himself, wrote plays for strong, vital women. Often the play's central figure, his woman does not easily fall into the bitch goddess, virgin mother, whore, ingenue, nor castrating neurotic formula. His female characters generate energy and motivate action rather than merely...

(The entire section is 6285 words.)

Elsie B. Adams (essay date 1982)

(Drama Criticism)

SOURCE: Adams, Elsie B. “Heartless, Heartbroken, and Heartfelt: A Recurrent Theme in the Plays of Bernard Shaw.” English Literature in Translation 25, no. 1 (1982): 4-9.

[In the following essay, Adams considers the significance of Shaw's repeated use of “heart” in compound words and phrases throughout his plays, and the association of these terms with particular characters.]

It has been a critical cliché of long standing that Shaw is a writer of intellect, not passion—appealing to the brain and not to the heart. Shaw was of course aware of this critical opinion, and objected to it as an oversimplification of his matter and method. For example, in his satire...

(The entire section is 2982 words.)

Karen Howell McFadden (essay date 1988)

(Drama Criticism)

SOURCE: McFadden, Karen Howell. “G. Bernard Shaw's Political Plays of the Nineteen Thirties.” Nature, Society, and Thought 1, no. 3 (1988): 418-34.

[In the following essay, McFadden asserts that Shaw's political plays from the 1930s are “worthy of re-examination, not only for their artistic merit, but also because they provide engrossing images of the kinds of philosophical debates Shaw was constantly waging with himself and others throughout his lifetime.”]

The acute social crisis of capitalism in the nineteen thirties produced a literature fraught with ideological implications which retains its relevance for those seeking solutions to the problems of today....

(The entire section is 7061 words.)