1000 Books In 10 Years; Vol. 172-174: Three Plays by Bernard Shaw

The Devil’s Disciple

When reading this work I couldn’t help but be reminded of A Tale Of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.  Not quite so epic in proportion, but the spirit of the novel is in this play.  A man who professes to be morally corrupt finds himself in a position to save the life of another man for the sake of the woman who loves him.  But alas, The Devil’s Disciple is a comedy and not a tragedy, and so all lives are spared by the final scene.  The play also touches on the subject of ownership and women and inheritance and also delves into the hypocritical nature of organized religion.  Certainly not Shaw’s best work, but still one worth reading.

 

Caesar and Cleopatra

This narrative is all over the map and I found it hard to follow.  It is a comedy and while Shaw’s Caesar is at once a humourous and insightful, the rest of the characters are not as fully formed.  Caesar takes what seems like a Taoist approach to everything he comes across and fails to take the advice of nearly everybody who offers him their opinion.  Caser though is most prophetic when he discusses the death of one man and how ideas of justice and vengeance can encourage an unending, torrential  down pour of blood.  Cleopatra’s character is one-dimensional at best, as is the rest of the cast, but Caesar almost makes this play worth reading.  That said, this is certainly not among my favorite plays.

 

Captain Brassbound’s Conversion

Lady Cicely Waynflete is likely one of the most persuasive female characters to ever be featured on the stage.  She is at once compromising and firm, naïve and sensible and seems to be able to always find a happy medium between two sides, even when resolution seems outside of the realm of possibility.  This does not, however, mean the play is without flaws.  Like his play Pygmalion, Captain Brassbound’s Conversion employs the phonetic spelling of cockney accents which is at time hard to read, and also inconsistent.  For example, the cockney speaking character fails to pronounce the letter “H” when it is at the beginning of a word, but at the same time pronounces the letter “H” at the beginning of ever word that starts with a vowel.  It seems odd that the speaker would make the effort to pronounce the “H” sounds when it isn’t present and then not pronounce it when it is.  There are also times when words are spelt phonetically, but the word reads as it is normally sounded, while other times the author relies on the traditional spelling which isn’t consistent with the phonetics of the word.  Half of the first act is written in the cockney accent and is at times harder to read than is The Canterbury Tales.    As the play goes on, the cockney accent is featured less though and it in turn the play becomes easier to read, though I believe Shaw did a better job of exploring phonetics in Pygmalion, which itself is a nearly perfect play.

Rambler About Rambler

Jason John Horn is a writer and critic who recently completed his Master's in English Literature at the University of Windsor. He has composed a play, a novella and a number of short stories and satirical essays.

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