Technique of Shaw’s Drama
Shaw needed a naked medium for the expression of his ideas, a medium of art that would permit the maximum of theorising and a minimum of narrative. This he found in the drama. With no love for drama as such, Shaw seized upon it as the means of putting over his ideas. He handled the form as an instrument. He is not concerned with the telling of a story or the creation of characters. It is the depositing of many mental reactions on things of moment at the time. When he has thrown the idea to his characters to play with, Shaw shows where his real interest lies in summing up his own contribution to the discussion in a preface, sometimes as long as the play itself.
Nature of Revolt
The first feature of Shaw’s drama is his peculiar quality of revolt. From his earlier youth, Shaw has been a preacher of revolt, but revolt rationalized and made secure by numbers and by common sense. Through he is unlimited in mental processes, he is practical in action. His mind and his pen were to be free, but free his body and his person had to live in the world. He is also a thorough participant. He has been from the start interested in everything and made all things his own affair. But mostly his participation was mental.
It is the serious discussion which is the most important thing with Shaw. It is for the serious discussion that his comical plays, exit. He insists that are some things which should not be dealt with comically at all. His objection to the comic work of Shakespeare and Dickens is that they have dealt in a spirit of frivolity with things that ought to have been approached with greater earnestness.
Shaw considers humour in art one of the saving graces of life, for to him light hearted laughter is also ‘sound moral judgment’ He believes in an ‘irrepressible gaiety’ which enables man to bear the whole weight of the world’s misery without fear. There is a laugh always ready to avenge its tears of discouragement. But he has also banished pure comedy to a secondary position. Drama must, in his opinion, be both serious and laughable. He declared that his plays were sui generis (peculiar of its own kind).
Combination of Serious and Comic
It is his combination of deadly seriousness and earnestness, and the most light-hearted triviality that has puzzled his readers and critics. In Shaw, a single drama must be at the same time humorous and serious; the comic play must not only excite laughter but also pass a moral judgment on life. A farce must have a grave discussion, and the grave discussion must be so carried on as to arouse laughter. On the other hand, in Shakespeare, the comic has been introduced into tragedies only as a sort of relief. It is not essential to the main substance of tragedy. The comedies are fundamentally comical and the tragic interludes only add the charm of romance to the fun of comedy.
His Socialist View
Shaw is a socialist. Noble sentiments such as parental love and patriotism are to him, mere fictions formed by capitalism, which itself is terrible but unreal. For him there can be no morality until society has been completely re- organised on a socialist basis. As an economist he has looked at poverty from the point of view of the poor as disease fatal to human society. Shaw’s opinions on economics and art have combined to make him a serious comedian.
His Life Force
As a biologist Shaw has found that nothing is real in this world except the Life Force. This Force exists in a creative instinct that is constantly developing and experimenting with new and ever new forms. According to Shaw, Intelligence occupies a very subordinate position in relation to instinct which alone is fundamental. Our intellect often runs parallel to our instincts which lie deeper, but which never fail to assert themselves at the most vital points of our lives. It is this contradiction between the beliefs of our intellect and the commands of the Life Force, which is a productive source of comedy. The comic blunders of the Life Force are also its serious experiments.
The chief peculiarity of many of Shaw’s dramas is that the hero has an original morality. Technique, therefore, is a technique of contrast, original creative morality being contrasted with the mechanical morality that is imposed from without.
Generally, there is only one small incident, and Shaw describes his heroes and other characters in relation to it.
All the above aspects influence Shaw’s dramas in some way or the other. He has a strange attitude to an individual’s conduct. He takes a serious view of an individual’s opinions contrary to conventional beliefs, but takes it lightly in what way he acts. Hence most of his plays having serious discussions end with a comic. outcome. All these features were new in those days, through they many appear familiar now.
English Literature— Important links
- Major Works of George Bernard Shaw
- G. B. Shaw’s Theory of Life-Force
- Life History of G. B. Shaw (Biography)
- Shaw as an Artist and Socialist
- “Arms and the Man” (ACT-I) Summary
- Arms and the Man (Act-2) Summary
- Arms and the Man (Act- 3) Summary
- Arms and The Man (Act-1)- Explanation & Analysis
- G. B. Shaw’s place in Literature
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