Posted: June 5th, 2021

Bernard Shaw’s Contribution to Realism

In 1891, Shaw writes The Quintessence of Ibsenism after seeing Ibsen’s A Doll House two years before. It is a criticism that tells us about Shaw more than Ibsen. In his book he talks about many aspects: the realist and idealist, that idealist wears mask and avoid the truth and reality whereas the realist faces it, and the human behaviors should justify itself by its effect on life; no one is villain and no one is hero because in reality, as Shaw sees, there is no complete man to be hero.From this, it arrived to us his theory that there is no villain or hero because it is a matter of affection of life on an individual.
We see in Widowers’ Houses, a character rents a slum houses to poor people, he makes use of them, and here we see the real characters as human being away from the romantic conventions. Also, in The Philanderer, it tackles social problems through witty comedy. Another theory in the book, he talks about the idea Unwomanly Woman who rejects the idealism of womanliness that is capable working for her future and to be independent.As we see in Mrs. Warren’s Profession, when Vive refuses to act in a traditional feminine manner, always speaking her mind and demanding that others treat her as an individual who can work for her future and take her decision. The three plays I mentioned are categorized as “Plays Unpleasant” because it forces the spectator to face unpleasant facts, and it is not to entertain them but to raise the awareness of social problems there.As a result Shaw answered them with ““I do not hesitate to say that many of my critics have been completely beaten by the play simply because they are ignorant of society.
” Shaw scorned the “well-made play” thinking that a play should grow out of the imagination not by plans and specifications. And although they play has no certain technique to follow, as Shaw believes, it must be didactic and to teach because it can be more real. He introduces the problem plays as part of the realism exposing many social ill and problems.As he continues his theory, he attacks the traditional Victorian acting, and he sees the need of new school of acting to teach actors how to be “plastic” that can act in any style and not to be dominated to sentimental roles. Because of his bad experience with censorship about his previous “Plays Unpleasant”, he should find a way to publish his plays and at the same time satisfying them. So, he tries to lower their defense by making them laugh through the method of clown and absurdist.As a result, he called his next plays as “Plays Pleasant,” and to not to be as his previous one, he uses the burlesque form to disguise its themes.

Although at first he doesn’t like the well-made play, but in Arms and Man, he used it and exploited it to achieve his aim. Moreover, he discovers his style in Italian opera, and he thinks it is more enchantment than drama, besides his drama by mixing the satirical burlesque of Gilbert and the wit of Wild with his operatic style. Styan, J. L. Modern Drama in Theory and Practice: Realism and naturalism. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 1983.

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