‘I am as fond of fine music and handsome buildings as Milton was, or Cromwell, or Bunyan; but if I found that they were becoming the instruments of a systematic idolatry of sensuousness, I would hold it good statesmanship to blow up every cathedral in the world to pieces with dynamite’
Disgusted and bored by the trend for titillation and sham on the London stage, Shaw wrote these plays both to educate and entertain his audiences. In The Devil’s Disciple, a clergyman turned soldier and the Shavian ideal of a Puritan hero—’like all genuinely religious men, a reprobate and an outcast’—willingly risks his life for a stranger. Caesar and Cleopatra, a brilliant satire on contemporary Britain, contains an utterly unexpected portrait of Julius Caesar (‘part brute, part woman’). In Captain Brassbound’s Conversion it is Lady Cicely’s cunning manipulation of the truth that ensures that fairness, rather than justice, prevails.
Three Plays for Puritans reveals Shaw’s constant delight in turning received wisdom upside down and celebrating the triumph of the individual conscience over accepted morality.
The definitive text under the editorial supervision of Dan H. Laurence