While some of Shaw's earlier plays are still performed, his later plays, such as the ones in this volume, are barely known. As the collective title indicates, the themes here are political; yet, frankly, it is doubtful how seriously we can now take Shaw as a political thinker. Despite writing in the 1930s, he has little to say of the nature of totalitarianism: although he satirises Fascist dictators in "Geneva", the satire is disappointingly mild. Neither did Shaw appear to foresee (on the evidence of these plays, at least) the imminent collapse of the British Empire.But it is Shaw the dramatist rather than Shaw the political philosopher who still holds our attention - even in plays as explicitly political as these. He had a sharp intellect and a quirky sense of humour, and his dialogue still glints and sparkles: he couldn't write a dull line if he tried. No matter how serious the themes he addresses, the crispness of his writing and his lightness of touch still scintillate.Shaw seems, perhaps unfairly, out of fashion nowadays. But even in these lesser-known works, he demonstrates his matchless ability, still undimmed, to provoke and to entertain.
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BERNARD SHAW was born in Dublin in 1856. After his arrival in London in 1876 he became an active Socialist and a brilliant platform speaker. He wrote on many social aspects of the day: on Common Sense about the War (1914), How to Settle the Irish Question (1917) and The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism and Capitalism (1928). He undertook his own education at the British Museum and consequently became keenly interested in cultural subjects. Thus his prolific output included music, art and theatre reviews, which were collected into several volumes such as Music in London 1890–1894 (3 vols, 1931); Pen Portraits and Reviews (1931); and Our Theatres in the Nineties (3 vols, 1931). He also wrote five novels and some shorter fiction, including The Black Girl in Search of God and Some Lesser Tales and Cashel Byron’s Profession, both published in Penguin’s Bernard Shaw Library.
He conducted a strong attack on the London theatre and was closely associated with the intellectual revival of British theatre. His plays fall into several categories: ‘Plays Pleasant’; ‘Plays Unpleasant’; comedies; chronicle-plays; ‘metabiological Pentateuch’ (Back to Methuselah, a series of plays); and ‘political extravaganzas’. Bernard Shaw died in 1950.
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