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Mrs. Warren's Profession

by George Bernard Shaw

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Is Mrs Warren's Profession a critique of capitalism and industrialization?

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Not really. Mrs Warren's Profession is, in fact, a feminist play. G.B. Shaw himself declared that he had written it for women and about women.

As a socialist, Shaw was aware of social and gender inequality. The play highlights that the economic system of the times had no place for women at the top of the success ladder. Thus, the only way in which a woman could escape poverty and remain independent from male domination was the shady path Mrs Warren chose.

Yet there was a measure of perversity in her hard-earned independence. She escaped the oppression of a system that exploited women by exploiting her sex to satisfy men's sexual appetites. The hypocritical, patriarchal society of the times condemned prostitutes but did not refrain from resorting to them. Thus Mrs Warren deceived herself into believing that she had defeated the establishment, when in fact she had become functional to it.

Capitalism and industrialization played no part in Mrs Warren's choice. The oppression of women goes back to the moment when matriarchal societies ceased to exist. This play, like others by the same author (see, for example, Fanny's First Play) sheds light on the cynicism that characterized the double standard of the 19th century.

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