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George Bernard Shaw demanded truth and despised convention. He punctured hollow pretensions and smug prudishness—coating his criticism with ingenious and irreverent wit. In Mrs. Warren’s Profession, Arms and the Man, Candida, and Man and Superman, the great playwright satirizes society, military heroism, marriage, and the pursuit of man by woman. From a social, literary, and theatrical standpoint, these four plays are among the foremost dramas of the age—as intellectually stimulating as they are thoroughly enjoyable.
“My way of joking is to tell the truth: It is the funniest joke in the world.”—G. B. Shaw
With an Introduction by Eric Bentley
and an Afterword by Norman Lloyd
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George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950) was born in Dublin, Ireland. He attended four different schools, but his real education came from a thorough grounding in music and painting, which he obtained at home. In 1871, he was apprenticed to a Dublin estate agent, and later he worked as a cashier. In 1876, Shaw joined his mother and sister in London, where he spent the next nine years in genteel poverty. From 1885 to 1898, he wrote for newspapers and magazines as a critic of art, literature, music, and drama. But his main interest at that time was political propaganda, and in 1884 he joined the Fabian Society. From 1893 to 1939, the most active period of his career, Shaw wrote forty-seven plays. By 1915, his international fame was firmly established and productions of Candida, Man and Superman, Arms and the Man, and The Devil’s Disciple were being played in many countries around the world, from Britain to Japan. He went on to write such dramas as Heartbreak House, Back to Methuselah, Androcles and the Lion, and St. Joan, and in 1925, the playwright was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. During his lifetime, he was besieged by offers to film his plays, but he accepted only a few, the most notable being Pygmalion. After his death, it was further adapted as the basis for the musical My Fair Lady.
Eric Bentley is an eminent playwright, translator, and dramatic critic whose numerous books include The Playwright as Thinker: A Study of Drama in Modern Times, Bernard Shaw 1856–1950, In Search of Theater, and the widely acclaimed The Life of Drama.
Norman Lloyd is perhaps most well-known for his role as the wise and avuncular Dr. Auschlander on the popular television drama St. Elsewhere, but he has appeared in many other television series as well as feature films such as Hitchcock’s Saboteur, The Age of Innocence, and Dead Poet’s Society. He began his career as an apprentice at Eva LeGallienne’s Civic Repertory Theatre and later joined with Orson Welles and John Houseman in the formation of the Mercury Theatre. An acclaimed director and producer, he has been a frequent guest lecturer at colleges and universities and has served on the teaching staff of the American Film Institute. He is the author of Stages: Of Life in Theatre, Film, and Television.
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