"An original contribution to Shaw scholarship," says Michel Pharand, editor of SHAW: The Annual of Bernard Shaw Studies, who aptly summarizes Bernard Dukore’s book: This “systematic survey of how Shaw dramatizes slavery to and revolt against duty, and tricks of the governing class, has not previously been attempted. Proceeding chronologically and providing full historical context when needed (instructive also are the many parallels to contemporary history), Dukore pays scrupulous attention to detail and accuracy, and his language is fluid and jargon-free."
The first part of the book’s subtitle derives from Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance, which describes its protagonist, and from Ibsen’s A Doll House, whose protagonist renounces slavery to duty and conventional morality. The subtitle’s second part is from Major Barbara, in which a powerful capitalist, a member of the governing class, refers to tricks designed to make people act in ways that profit it. The powerful instill slavery to duty and ensure that organizations aiming to alleviate the suffering of the poor act in ways that benefit the controlling class’s interests.
With astonishing variety, Shaw dramatizes slavery to and revolt against duty and the tricks of the governing class in thirty-seven of his more than fifty plays from 1892 to 1948. Whereas some characters are bound by duty, others free themselves from the many different forms of trickery. Perhaps surprising is the twenty-first century pertinence of these themes, including the hypocrisy of capitalists who use phrases charged with the words “duty” and “morality” to justify their greed as well as their devious uses of education, religion, and the press.