The relationship of parents and children in the English domestic plays of George Bernard Shaw
The aim of this thesis is to bring a new critical perspective to the English domestic plays of George Bernard Shaw by analysing them in the light of Shaw's treatment of parent-child relationships. A domestic play is one in which the plot or problem centres around a family and in which the setting is that family's permanent or temporary home. The period 1890 and 1914 has been chosen for three reasons: first, it was during this time that Shaw began and succeeded in his career as a dramatist; secondly, this period saw the growth of the `new drama' movement, which considered a discussion of sociological issues a prerequisite for responsible dramatic literature, and thirdly, changes within the theatre itself, most noticeably Granville Barker's seasons at the Court Theatre (1904-1907) gave Shaw the opportunity to have his work intelligently and artistically presented to a growing audience of literary discrimination and social awareness. Heartbreak House is included in this analysis because although not finished until 1917 it was begun in 1913. The thesis begins with an examination of the influences on Shaw which made the treatment of the parent-child relationship a central theme of his earliest plays. These are (a) Biographical (b) Sociological (c) Theatrical - (i) Nineteenth century Popular Theatre including Melodrama (ii) Ibsenism Section Two describes Shaw's treatment of parents and children in his novels. The aim of this section is to demonstrate that the family relationships that assume major significance in the plays are prefigured in the novels not simply thematically but formally. In Section Three the English domestic plays are placed in four categories under the schematic headings which sometimes overlap: (a) Single Parents, Widowers' Houses, The Philanderer, Man and Superman, Pygmalion, Heartbreak House (b) The Return of the Absent Parent, Mrs Warren's Profession, You Never Can Tell, Major Barbara (c) Substitute Parents, You Never Can Tell, Candida, Man and Superman, Pygmalion, Heartbreak House (d) Happy Families, Getting Married, Misalliance, Fanny's First Play, The conclusion is that Shaw, in expressing his opinions on the relationships of children and their parents in the English domestic plays as well as in his other writings, was challenging the conventions of conventional middle-class society while at the same time expressing, perhaps compulsively, his personal quest for his own `true' parents.