Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version
William Archer suggested to Shaw that they collaborate in writing a play. Although the effort was begun, it was never completed. However, their frequent discussions on Ibsen resulted in Shaw’s The Quintessence of Ibsenism (1891); it was the first book published in English on the playwright. The significance of the book lies in the fact that Shaw’s attention was turned to drama. He soon began to write plays that explored the serious issues and concerns of the common people, creating dramas of "ideas".
Shaw’s first effort at a play was to complete the one begun by Archer and him in 1885; called Widowers’ Houses, it was originally performed in London in December of 1892 at the Royalty Theatre. A savage attack on slum landlordism, it was considered too radical for its time and met with no success. In 1893, he wrote Mrs. Warren’s Profession, a play about prostitution; it was denied performance by the Examiner of Plays, who considered it immoral. The Philanderer was also written in 1893, but not produced until 1905. Shaw’s next play, Arms and the Man, (1894) was a bitter attack on the romanticism of war and met with great popularity. This success was followed by Candida (1897), The Devil’s Disciple (1897), The Man of Destiny (1897), Caesar and Cleopatra (1898), You Never Can Tell (1899), and Captain Brassbound’s Conversion (1900). John Bulls’ Other Island (1904), which tackled the Irish-English conflict, was very popular. How He Lied to Her Husband (1904) was an anti- romantic treatment of the familiar triangular situation of husband, wife, and lover.
Shaw contributed four of his most serious and intellectual plays to the new theatre movement of the 1920s: Heartbreak House (1920) condemned the leisure of Europeans before the war; Back to Methuselah (1922) was an anti-Darwinian drama on Creative Evolution; Saint Joan (1923) chronicled the live and death of the famous French maid; and The Apple Cart (1929) criticized both democracy and royalty. Shaw’s last plays include Too True to be Good (1932), TheMillionairess (1936), and In Good King Charles’s Golden Days (1939).
Shaw’s social, political and religious opinions can often be found in the Prefaces to his plays, which were collected into a single volume in 1934. He also wrote several intellectual and provocative works, like Common Sense about the War (1914), How to Settle the Irish Question (1917), The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism and Capitalism (1928), and Everybody’s Political What’s What (1944).
Shaw died in 1950, at the age of ninety-five. At the time, he was one of the best known and most respected dramatists in the world. He was also awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925, which he first refused and later accepted.