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Mrs. Warren's Profession Paperback – August 21, 2013
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Banned for over 30 years, this cautionary tale ruthlessly dissects Victorian family relationships in all its uncompromising forms voyeuristically witnessing breathtaking snobbery, arrogance, attitudes to lower classes and an unsavoury disposition to money and status... In a world where perception, morality, money and status form the basis of how society frames itself Mrs Warren's Profession is a caustic, revelatory tale of dysfunction. -- Jackie Cobham Daily Telegraph 20090527 The real pleasure of Shaw's play...is just how modern it can feel, whether it is pricking the balloon of morality or hypocrisy --Lyn Gardner Guardian 20091121
About the Author
Norma Jenckes, Ph.D. (Illinois), is Associate Professor of English, University of Cincinnati. Among her books are: Arms and the Man: A Facsimile of the holograph Manuscript (1981) and New Readings in American Drama (2002). She is the founding and continuing editor of American Drama and has published essays on Shaw, Albee, Miller, Williams, Wilson, Lawson, and Odets.
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After reading Toni Morrison's Beloved, I realized that a story is more than just a story. There are characters and settings, but there is also underlying significance buried underneath every page. Shaw, I think, is the master of this idea, even though Mrs. Warren's Profession came about half a century before Beloved. Shaw perfects this technique in the format of a staged work, while Morrison does so in the world of Postmodernism.
The main idea behind Shavian works is the struggle between social classes in England in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Having performed in Shaw's Pygmalion as a parlor maid, I was granted the luxury of looking through Shaw's eye at the British hierarchy, and I wasn't too caught up in a complex character. I really got to absorb this system, and I was granted another chance to do so when I read Mrs. Warren's Profession.
Characters such as Kitty Warren and Eliza Doolittle have risen through the social ranks (though not always in the most virtuous of ways) with the help of nefarious figures like Sir George Crofts and Henry Higgins. The whole focus of Shaw's works is the lack of innocence in this social advancement, and the strains put upon family by the will to be more respected. It's basically a big old "Who cares?!" to the social system. Families are families, and chances are a parent will care about a child, and vice versa, even if they don't have a ton of money.
Shaw really puts a lot of emphasis on family ties and the social hierarchy. Even though it was first staged over a century ago, Mrs. Warren's Profession is still extremely relevant, and therefore still extremely important. That's what makes it worth reading.
The other characters in this play are men. A couple who know how Mrs. Warren earned her money and those who love her daughter. But when the truth comes out her daughter turns from her mother and any man who would still have her knowing the shadow her mother has brought upon her.
It's interesting that the subject is prostitution. It is interesting how delicately the subject is handled, you have to follow closely to understand what the problems are and it's interesting that it had such trouble being performed. But at this point little about the play itself is interesting under its own merits.
As to the play, which I think I've read before back in 1990 or so: the preface should be included in readers on free speech and on theater history if it isn't already, while the play is unusual and effective.