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Bernard Shaw

Slaves of Duty and Tricks of the Governing Class

Bernard F. Dukore

Publication Year: 2012

"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.

Published by: ELT Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii

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Notes & Acknowledgments

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pp. viii

SINCE SHAW’S idiosyncratic spelling and punctuation are known to many but not to everyone, a note about them is warranted. Shaw spells some words in the American rather than British way (“labor,” for instance, rather than...

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1. Duty Bound and Duty Free

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pp. 1-9

IN 1879, WITHIN TEN DAYS of each other, two very different theatrical works received their first productions, Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance and Ibsen’s A Doll House, coincidentally in countries other than their authors’ native...

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2. Unpleasant and Pleasant Plays

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pp. 10-19

SHAW’S IMMERSION in and crusade in behalf of Ibsen’s drama was not confined to his lecture on Ibsen and his book about Ibsen’s plays. For instance, he wrote three articles about A Doll House, including a review of its production in June...

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3. Puritans and a Prizefighter

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pp. 20-24

IN SHAW’S next collection of plays, Three Plays for Puritans—consisting of The Devil’s Disciple (1896), Cæsar and Cleopatra (1898) and Captain Brassbound’s Conversion (1899)—as well as his play about a prizefighter, which follows them, he continues to mine...

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4. “The Big Three”

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pp. 25-37

IN A PRESS RELEASE drafted for the first American production of Major Barbara in 1915, Shaw called this comedy the third of three plays— the others being Man and Superman (1902) and John Bull’s Other Island— “of exceptional weight and magnitude...

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5. Late Edwardian Plays

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pp. 38-54

STRICTLY SPEAKING, the Edwardian era covers the reign of Queen Victoria’s son King Edward VII, from January 1901, after her death, to May 1910, when he died. However, historians and writers of literature and culture are not always so strict...

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6. Plays of the War Years

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pp. 55-62

IT WOULD BE as inaccurate to call the ironically titled Arms and the Man an anti-war play as it would be to call it an anti-love play. As Michael Holroyd reminds us, Shaw changed its subtitle from A Romantic Comedy to...

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7. An Allegory, An Adaptation, and A Different War

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pp. 63-72

IN THE FIRST FEW YEARS of the 1920s, Shaw did not treat the themes of slavery to duty and tricks of the governing class in terms of World War I. Nevertheless, he pointedly has Reverend Haslam in Part II (“The Gospel of the Brothers Barnabas”) of his allegory...

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8. Plays During Hard Times

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pp. 73-95

WHEREAS IN THE UNITED KINGDOM the term “Hard Times” is generally taken to refer to the novel by Charles Dickens, in America it is a reference to the Great Depression, which in the United Kingdom is also called the Great...

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9. Parables and Playfulness

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pp. 96-107

AFTER JESUS addressed the multitudes, his disciples asked why he spoke to them in parables. “Because,” came the reply, “it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.” The multitudes “seeing see...

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10. Slaves of Duty, Moral Duty, and Other Tricks of the Governing Class

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pp. 108-119

OF THE FIFTY-ONE OR FIFTY-TWO PLAYS in what is usually considered the official Shavian canon, to which I would add a fifty-third, The Inauguration Speech—An Interlude, thirty-seven (of which my fifty-third play is not one...


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pp. 120-133


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pp. 134-139

E-ISBN-13: 9780944318539
Print-ISBN-13: 9780944318461

Page Count: 152
Publication Year: 2012