Money & Politics in Ibsen, Shaw, and Brecht

Money & Politics in Ibsen, Shaw, and Brecht

Money & Politics in Ibsen, Shaw, and Brecht

Money & Politics in Ibsen, Shaw, and Brecht


The Apostolic Succession—Ibsen, Shaw, and Brecht

Almost any list of major modern dramatists would include the names Henrik Ibsen, Bernard Shaw, and Bertolt Brecht. Representing three successive dramatic generations, each of the two younger men was influenced by, or at least drew upon, the plays of the older man who immediately preceded him.

In 1891, Shaw wrote the first book in English on Ibsen, The Quintessence of Ibsenism . Despite the fact that Shaw did not complete his first play, Widowers’ Houses , until the end of the following year, numerous critics claim that Shaw’s critical study of Ibsen should really be called The Quintessence of Shavianism . Far from discouraging such observations, Shaw heralded them. A self-proclaimed disciple of Ibsen, he called many of his dramatic works “discussion plays” along the lines initiated by the Norwegian master, and he applied such terms as realism and idealism , which he used to analyze Ibsenite drama, to his own. Indeed, more than one of Shaw’s plays reveals a little touch of Henrik in the night, and some—particularly Candida —reveal a great deal. Indebted to A Doll House, Candida —according to Shaw himself—intends to demonstrate that in modern society, it is the husband, not the wife, who is treated as a doll. As other critics have pointed out, Candida also owes a debt to Ibsen’s The Lady from the Sea , for in both plays a husband agrees to let

1. See Bernard Shaw, Major Critical Essays .

2. Even as recently as 1971, by Michael Meyer, in Ibsen: A Biography , p. 457; and 1972, by Michael Egan, in his Introduction to Ibsen: the Critical Heritage , p. 21. As late as 1977, Ronald Gray calls The Quintessence “more about Shaw than about Ibsen” in Ibsen-A Dissenting View , p. 205.

3. See my Bernard Shaw, Playwright , pp. 54–60

4. See Stephen S. Stanton, ed., A Casebook on Candida, p. 158.

5. For example, Arthur H. Nethercot and Jacob H. Adler, in ibid pp. 234, 258–67

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