The Shavian Theatre of Ideas (Modern Drama)

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THE SHAVIAN THEATRE OF IDEAS (MODERN DRAMA)

The predominating influence in determining Shaw to turn to the drama was the example of Ibsen and equally prominent was his love of debating, in which he had shown how irresistible it was for him to counter his arguments himself if no one else would. These influential strains compelled him to choose the kind of play in which the characters undertake this dual task of proposer and opposer.  In 1892, he made it into Widower’s Houses, and thereafter, for nearly sixty years with unflagging energy he made drama peculiarly his own province. It was not till after Saint Joan that he became the revered elder playwright, a highly respectable figure whom, however, the dramatic critics did not cease to condemn as sharply as before. By then, the old world having been transformed by the war, a new generation had grown up to accept him. Supreme though he had been in his own publicizing of ideas, the parallel preaching of H.G Wells and others had further helped to make his Socialism and his general attitude to ideas and society part of the mind of the age. But socialists as well as others could still be amazed as the old man, with the energy and the unpredictable originality of his genius, produced such plays as The Apple Cart, Too True to be Good, Geneva and In Good King Charles’s Golden Days. 

In this long period of dramatic writing, Shaw displayed the range of his genius in a great variety of plays. It is hard, however, to discern any clear “periods” or trends in his development. At most, there is on the whole a change of theme from the particular to the general, from the contemporary scene to the future and of attitude from the satiric and destructive to the philosophic and constructive, from the materialistic to the mystic. If there is any real division to be made in Shaw’s dramatic development it is the First War that marks it. Unable to produce any new work in those four years, when he resumed with Heartbreak House, he was...
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