George Bernard Shaw: Man of the Century

By Archibald Henderson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 56
Problems of the Playwright

TAKEN TO TASK FOR KEEPING THE WORLD ON TENTERHOOKS IN EXPECTATION OF his autobiography, Shaw brusquely replied: "I have not kept you waiting. I have written more autobiography than any other living author. In fact I have been reproached for never writing anything else. But that is an exaggeration."

There is almost no phase of comedy, especially as illustrated by his own plays, upon which he has not touched. He has presented, in extenso, his views on dramatic technique, the nature of drama, its origin and not a little of its history; and a description of his method and intent in writing plays. But he is enough of a mystic to realize that he cannot describe the creative process.

Addressing an audience at Great Malvern in 1934, Shaw disclaimed any knowledge of the workings of the power which used him as an instrument for the writing of plays. To begin with, he used a phrase which is the title of one of the five parts of his own Back to Methuselah: "the thing happens." He knew only that, in writing drama, one was hemmed in by limitations, many of which cannot be surmounted. "The novelist has a glorious liberty and license which is denied to the playwright. The novelist can go all over the shop. Wells extends his operations to the moon. He has visitors from Mars. . . . He says, 'Nothing can happen on the stage.' That is quite true in a sense. I have sometimes been reproached with the accusation that people in my plays do nothing but talk. That is a very queer accusation, because there are no plays in which anything can happen but talk. Plays are all talk. . . .

"I depend entirely on inspiration. A play grows in my mind and I put it on paper. I do not know how or why. The funny thing is that it sometimes strikes me, when I see an early play of my own, that it looks as if I had elaborately constructed it. All the results of perfect construction are achieved in that way, but I do not mean that everybody can do it. I can produce literature and I can produce drama. I am a playwright and a great many other things as well, but I cannot tell you how it is done."1

To the journalist, Hannen Swaffer, he confided: "You must regard me as a hardened old professional who is inspired all the time during working hours. My subjects come to me anyhow, and when I have chosen my subject, the play writes itself. I can even begin without a subject with the same result. The

____________________
1
"How Shaw Writes his Plays," Sheffield Daily Telegraph, August 15, 1934.

-748-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
George Bernard Shaw: Man of the Century
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
/ 978

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.