- Dick Dudgeon, Caesar, and Captain Brassbound in Poland
For those who might need further proof that Shaw's message holds relevance in the twenty-first century's increasingly globalized world, a slim volume introducing Shaw's ideas to a Polish audience has recently appeared with an opening line all Shavians will applaud: "George Bernard Shaw is one of the greatest writers in the world and has a special position among them" (7). The opening chapter, "The Devil's Disciple," offers some basic background information about Shaw's early years, some important influences on his ideas, and his decision to publish Three Plays for Puritans. It also gives an overview of the Puritans and their lasting effects on British culture and theater. The remainder of the book discusses each [End Page 236] of the three plays in turn, with an emphasis on how Dick Dudgeon, Caesar, and Lady Cicely exemplify Shaw's ideal of the "unconventional hero."
In the author's own words, "This work is an attempt to show how, by following his true nature, a man can discover new ways of doing things. The study will be concerned with the eternal idea of man's fight between 'good and evil' and a human Will evoking moral values which make man become better" (18). Although this book seems intended as a basic introduction to those unfamiliar with Shaw and his works, Shavians might be interested in reading about Shaw from an Eastern European perspective. Writing from a Polish point of view, Bielecka is able to draw some unexpected parallels, as when she cites Madeleine Albright as a modern successor to Lady Cicely and the recent peace-making process in Northern Ireland as a modern reflection of "Caesar's belief in acting without retaliation" (68). Readers will also be rewarded with the occasional epigram worthy of Shaw himself, such as a remark that appears in a discussion of Cunninghame Graham, whose "I never withdraw" is borrowed for Sergius's famous "I never apologize." Bielecka says of Graham, "All in all, such a stout personality cannot become a champion of any drama but autobiography" (55). This study also highlights some scholars little known in the West, including Piotr Domański, Krzysztof Dąbrowski, Malgorzata Sobczyńska, and Stanislawa Kumor, although the author draws more heavily on critics prominent in America and England, including Michael Holroyd, T. F. Evans, Margery Morgan, Louis Crompton, and Arthur Ganz.
Although it is rewarding to find Shaw still crossing the globe, the book suffers from numerous errors in punctuation and syntax, which are somewhat distracting. It is to be hoped that a future edition will do away with these. There are also a few minor factual errors, as when Shaw's novella The Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search for God is called a poem, which in the context of the paragraph makes it sound like a work by William Blake (who did, after all, write a poem called "The Little Black Boy"). Overall, however, Shavians should welcome Professor Bielecka's book as a vehicle spreading Shaw's word into territory where the mighty Irishman might not yet have the audience he deserves, 100 years after Three Plays for Puritans first hit the world stage. [End Page 237]
Julie A. Sparks received her doctorate in English from Pennsylvania State University and teaches in the English Department at San Jose State University. Her scholarly interests include drama, utopian and dystopian literature, and the relationship between science and religion.