The Critical Shaw: On Theater
“With the single exception of Homer, there is no eminent writer, not even Sir Walter Scott, whom I can despise so entirely as I despise Shakespeare when I measure my mind against his.” —Bernard Shaw, 1896
Critical Shaw: Theater is a comprehensive selection of essays and addresses about drama and theater by renowned Irish playwright and Nobel Laureate Bernard Shaw. An outspoken critic of the melodramas and formulaic farces that comprised most of the popular theater in the late nineteenth century, Shaw relentlessly campaigned for audiences, actors, theater managers, and even government officials to take theater more seriously, to use the stage as a forum for representing complex real issues such as poverty, marriage and divorce laws, sexual attraction, gender equality, and political power, so that through seeing them acted out, audiences could better understand and address them when they left the theater. Shaw’s commitment to social reform through theater was matched by his expertise in the artistic and practical aspects of drama: whether he was reviewing productions, lecturing about acting, or schooling agents on royalties and copyright law, Shaw set a standard for intelligent professionalism that our own theaters might still aspire to and be measured against.
The Critical Shaw series brings together, in five volumes and from a wide range of sources, selections from Bernard Shaw’s voluminous writings on topics that exercised him for the whole of his professional career: Literature, Music, Politics, Religion, and Theater. The volumes are edited by leading Shaw scholars, and all include an introduction, a chronology of Shaw’s life and works, annotated texts, and a bibliography. The series editor is L.W. Conolly, literary adviser to the Shaw Estate and former president of the International Shaw Society.