Arms and the Man, The Devil's Disciple, and Caesar and Cleopatra

ISBN : 9780198800712

George Bernard Shaw; Lawrence Switzky
352 Pages
129 x 196 mm
Pub date
Aug 2021
Oxford World's Classics
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  • An introduction which surveys Shaw's life up until the writing of Arms and the Man, with particular attention to his evolving political, artistic, and theological commitments during the early 1890s.
  • Looks at the historical context of each play, its aesthetic and thematic concerns, major criticism and scholarship about each play, and notable productions.
  • Discusses the foreign settings of all three plays, which evoke the colonial resonances of the late 1890s-including Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897, the centenary commemorations of the Irish Rebellion of 1798, and jingoism leading up to the Second Boer War in 1899.
  • Select Bibliography and Explanatory Notes

The three plays in this volume are some of George Bernard Shaw's most popular and frequently performed works. They demonstrate the development of Shavian comedy and contain early formulations of his idea of the Superman, an extraordinary individual who catalyzes the evolution of mankind.
Arms and the Man (1894) was Shaw's first commercial success and the first public confirmation that he could make playwriting his profession. It is the first of what Shaw called his "pleasant plays',comedies that critique idealism in general rather than specific social problems (as his earlier plays did). Specifically, Shaw undermines the romance of wartime courage, reckless heroism, and nationalist pride among British spectators while using the Serbo-Bulgarian War of 1886 as an exotic veneer.
Shaw wrote The Devil's Disciple (1897) for William Terriss, an actor known for his swashbuckling roles who had requested a play that would 'contain every "surefire" melodramatic situation' —mistaken identities, terrifying adventures and last-second escapes, and frequent emotional outpourings..
Caesar and Cleopatra (1898) is Shaw's revision of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra as well as a fusion of the pragmatism and unconventionality of the heroes of Arms and the Man and The Devil's Disciple into a portrait of jocular, morally serious leadership.


Select Bibliography
Arms and the Man
The Devil's Disciple
Caesar and Cleopatra
Explanatory Notes

About the author: 

George Bernard Shaw
Edited by Lawrence Switzky, Associate Professor of English, University of Toronto Mississauga

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