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Major Barbara Hardcover – December, 1964

22 customer reviews

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Hardcover, December, 1964
--This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The classic Shaw play is interpreted by this extremely talented cast of 12 performers, which mounts a rousing, unforgettable show complete with incredibly well-produced and realistic sound effects that capture everything from doors creaking open, bustling crowds on city streets and impatient horses ready to trot. Roger Rees as the elder Undershaft and Kirsten Potter as his daughter Barbara are standouts. The two play off each another very well and offer some truly memorable arguments that are the cornerstone of the story. The engaging cast sweeps listeners off to the cobblestone streets of old England. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

From School Library Journal

Grade 10 Up—This live theater production of George Bernard Shaw's Major Barbara examines newsworthy questions about war, morality, and salvation. Set in pre-World War I London, the play opens as Lady Britomart brings together her adult children—Barbara, Sarah, and Stephe—with their long-estranged father, munitions mogul Andrew Undershaft. It appears that Undershaft will disinherit his children because his company has a tradition of giving the arms factory to a capable adult born out of wedlock. The children prefer to forgo their fortune, especially Barbara who has risen through the ranks of the Salvation Army. Barbara and her fiancé, Adolphus Cusins, face a dilemma when generous donations from Undershaft and a liquor manufacturer are the only way their organization can help London's poor. When it's learned that Cusins' parents aren't married under English law, Undershaft offers him the arms business. Will Cusins lose Barbara if he chooses the inheritance? Can he bring true reform if he owns the arms used for strife? The conclusion leaves some questions unanswered. Listeners may find it distracting that occasionally the audience responds to action not reflected in the script. The cast of 12 keeps the action lively and the dialogue crisp. It would have been helpful for teachers to have the CD case list the acts by track. Despite the serious topics, and sometimes protracted conversations on morality, this adaptation of Shaw's comedy has many thoroughly British, humorous moments. A supplemental purchase for high school library's supporting a British literature curriculum.—Barbara S. Wysocki, Cora J. Belden Library, Rocky Hill, CT
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall Press (December 1964)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0582532612
  • ISBN-13: 978-0582532618
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A.J. on April 28, 2004
Format: Paperback
So says Andrew Undershaft, the extremely wealthy owner of a tremendously successful English armaments business, in George Bernard Shaw's play "Major Barbara." Undershaft, whose self-proclaimed religion is his wealth and his industry, inherited the business from a long line of Andrew Undershafts, each of whom was a foundling adopted by the corresponding previous Andrew Undershaft. This is not to say that the Undershafts don't marry and have families -- the current Andrew Undershaft has married the aristocratic Lady Britomart and has three children by her; he just doesn't let them have anything to do with the family business, preferring to stick to the tradition of bringing in an outsider to perpetuate the Andrew Undershaft dynasty.
Indeed, Undershaft feels that poverty is the primordial crime from which all other crimes -- burglary, murder -- spring, and that it is better to give a poor man a job so he can afford to live rather than spend public money on methods of punishing him should he violate the law in his efforts to afford to live. Undershaft moralizes when he speaks, but in actuality he scoffs at what he considers ordinary Christian morals of the kind professed by his daughter Barbara, who has joined the Salvation Army in her fervid desire to help the poor and has attained the rank of major. She works at a shelter doling out bread and milk to the downtrodden and trying to find work for the unemployed, but her real goal is to bring them to "salvation" by raising them to a higher state of spirituality. When her fiance, a scholar of Greek named Adolphus Cusins, who by a certain twist of logic happens to be his own cousin, reveals himself to be a foundling, Undershaft decides he's found his heir.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ken Miller on August 27, 2001
Format: Paperback
The playwright uncovers the debate about war and pacifism. Shaw also illuminates the poverty industry, and shows that all money is tainted. The play is a vehicle for a debate on philosophies, the burning issues of the day. Shaw shows that the audience can laugh and think, in the same play. Probably Britain's best known playwright, after Shakespeare, Shaw shines in Major Barbara
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bill R. Moore on April 7, 2010
Format: Paperback
Major Barbara is one of George Bernard Shaw's greatest comedies, perhaps one of his greatest plays of all - essential for fans and a great introduction to his work. The play epitomizes what made Shaw both great and popular - the ability to convey serious, even revolutionary, ideas in palatable form. It is a tribute to Shaw's artistry that, no matter how didactic, he always managed to entertain; in notable contrast to most sociopolitical writers, his messages never overwhelm his stories. Major can thus be enjoyed on a very basic level as a superb comedy. Shaw's comic invention seemed endless; the play is frequently amusing, often even laugh aloud funny. Lady Britomart is one of the all-time great comic characters, and Undershaft is also a great creation. However, as always with Shaw, there is far more here than just comedy. Major darkness creeps in, particularly in the character of Bill Walker; one of the sorrier specimens to ever pollute a stage, he vividly shows humanity's basest side. More importantly, Shaw gives us a wealth of things to think about; his usual critiques of capitalism and religion are here, and he zeroes in specifically on the ethics of business and war. Even more incisive is his stark examination of poverty and what to do about it; he explores the complex charity issue via the Salvation Army. He also touches on feminist issues, particularly how difficult it was for women to obtain financial support a century ago. Also of note is Shaw's Preface; an edition with it is essential. Comparable in length to the play itself, it covers everything from literary criticism - in regard to Major and in general - to philosophical issues raised in the play. It examines these last in considerable depth; Shaw not only details the problems, but unlike so many others, also offers solutions.Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Israel Drazin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 27, 2011
Shaw mocks religion in this three act comedy, ridicules politicians and the press, demeans England, as usual, and points out that it is not politicians who rule England, but as the American President Eisenhower later said, the military-industrial complex. The play focuses on an atypical family. Lady Britomart has a son and two daughters, one of whom, Barbara, is dedicated to religion and is a major in the Salvation Army. Britamart's husband, from whom she has been separated for over a decade, but who supports her liberally, makes millions selling armaments to warring parties.

Her husband is a foundling. He does not know his parents. He is one of many generations of men who have run his factories. Each owner must be a male foundling. Her husband therefore wants the same for his successor and refuses to have his son or daughters succeed him. His wife describes him as a very moral man who practices immorality. Like George Bernard Shaw, he believes that each person has his or her own sense of morality and should not be governed by the moral values of others. In stark contrast, Barbara believes that all people are sinners.

Shaw portrays the hypocrisy he sees in the Salvation Army. For example, while being vehemently against the ingestion of alcohol and against war, they take money from brewers and arms dealers. Barbara sees this and quits the group. Shaw also compares the sordid English society and the well-run factory town of the husband.

His wife invites him to her home with the intention of persuading him to increase the support payments that he is making. Their two daughters want to marry and their potential husbands are poor.
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