The Madras House

by Harley Granville-Barker

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 200

THE MADRAS HOUSE is a dramatic work still interesting in the contemporary theater. A problem play of the type popularized by Ibsen and Shaw at the turn of the century, it attempts to deal realistically with several related themes: the contrast between sexual honesty and sexual hypocrisy, the contrast between bourgeois respectability and real honesty in human dealings, the inevitability of social change even in connection with a long-established commercial institution like the Madras House, and the contrast in all personal relations between expressed motive and real motive. As in his other works, the playwright asked his audiences to think about themselves and the standards of the world which they at the time were far too likely to take for granted. If Granville-Barker’s dramas seem a little old-fashioned to some persons today, the causes are simple: we enjoy certain freedoms because the characters on his stage talked about them at length. Further, we have had full experience of enjoying those freedoms and find that pursuit of them may at one and the same time free us from old restrictions and plunge us into new ones, ambiguities of human action that the author of THE MADRAS HOUSE did not foresee.

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