From the nineteenth century to World War I, Thomas Piketty demonstrates in Capital in the Twenty-First Century, inflation was virtually zero. Reflecting the fiscal stability of that era, money in earlier novels and plays had a concrete, specific meaning. Income and wealth established a character’s social status that readers understood. Following the drums of August 1914 markers of money became unstable, even volatile, and currency rates fluctuated, sometimes greatly. Twenty-first-century audiences no longer understand, as nineteenth- and early twentieth-century audiences did, these monetary markers, which bear no relationship to today’s quantities. For today’s readers, teachers, directors, and actors, it is important to know more precisely, in today’s terms, the wealth or poverty—reflective of the standard of living—of Shaw’s characters. This essay focuses on Major Barbara, written more than a century ago, in which money is a significant factor. It aims to formulate the monetary allusions and the present-day incomes of the play’s onstage and offstage characters in the lower classes and upper classes, even in the topmost classes, including what is now called “the 1 percent.” It does so in both British pounds sterling and U.S. dollars.


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pp. 73-81
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