Evaluating George Bernard Shaw As a Dramatist, Second Only to Shakespeare
George Bernard Shah is recognized as the greatest dramatist after Shakespeare. Some even rate him above the bard from Avon. GB Shah was a writer who revolutionized English prose. He was in a way a dreamer and that filtered into his writings. He believed that the world is beautiful and it is the folly of man that it is not a paradise. This was the reason he took up relevant social- political issues and brought them out in his plays.
An excellent example is the play “Mrs. Warrens Profession” In this play he discussed the oldest profession in the world, prostitution. Slums so much a part of British London during his time was beautifully represented in “Widower’s House”, Think of a subject and GB Shah tackled it with aplomb. He portrayed the medical profession in “Doctor’s Dilemma” and the scourge of war in “Arms and the man. His portrayal of love, marriage and adultery is skillfully represented in “Candida”.
Thus one can visualize GB Shaw as a dramatist who had a sensitive mind. His i portrayal of social issues that concern the common man is something that puts him in my view above all play. But GB was not just a man who represented socio-economic problems only, as his writings concerned the innermost feelings and ethos of human life. He wrote about what man is and how he reacts in a situation, this is the beauty of GB Shaw’s writings.
There are critics of the plays of Shaw. They feel his plays lack ‘conflict’ and as this is the soul of a play, they are apt to put him lower in the scale of English writers. Fortunately such critics are very few, but one has to rebut them. The characters created by GB are real life characters. His plays are like debates as in ‘Arms and the Man’; a conflict is fought by both sides. But one will agree that though there are allusions to conflict the actual war is not represented. But in all his plays there is an undercurrent of conflict and that is the beauty of Shaw’s plays.
Shaw brings out a deeper conflict, a conflict of the mind. This is more terrible than an actual conflict. Shaw was a mental man and he envisaged a victory on the mental plane with logic and discussion. Thus one can see that the plays of Shaw have a different genre and he in fact is step higher than most play writers
Shaw used his characters to portray his innermost feelings. He is like a debater who discusses both sides of an issue. Thus in ’Arms and the Man’ Shaw brings out two opposite view points through his characters Sergius and Bluntschli. A look at one of his plays brings out the debate as one of the characters in ‘Candida’ says “Man can climb to the highest summits but he cannot dwell for long”, while another character says “It is false: there can he dwell forever.
Shaw thus represented the dual side of a problem. One can without second thoughts say that here is a writer who is as great as Shakespeare In a way Shaw unlike Shakespeare was of a more modern age and he was a propagandist. But he did not just pen propaganda and that is the reason he wrote fairly lengthy prefaces to his plays. These prefaces are important and help us to understand GB Shaw the man. He was in a way a maverick, but a genius. His refusal to accept the Nobel Prize was part of his make up.
In sum GB Shaw is one of the greatest writers of the English language and reading him decades after his death, one can realize that apart from writing impeccable English he was a revolutionary and a debater on a higher plane, an intellectual plane.