mrs. warren’s profession

Musing Mondays (Aug.20)

This week’s Musing Mondays from Should Be Reading asks…

“This week’s musing asks…

Have you ever reread a book and found that your opinion changed?

It has happened to me on more than one occasion. But right now two of  George Bernard Shaw’s plays, Arms and the Man and You Never Can Tell, come to mind. As a precocious pre-teen, I managed to get my hands on all of my dad’s books and read them repeatedly. I still love Shaw’s Candida and Mrs. Warren’s Profession. But Arms and the Man and You Never Can Tell, I have grown less and less fond of over the years.

Arms and the Man is entertaining but all of the characters are so insincere that after a while it gets really, really trying.

I don’t like romance and You Never Can Tell has quite a bit of that. Shaw’s idea of romance frankly irritates me. All that flirting and trying to gain advantage over each other as if they were enemies makes me really annoyed.  The character of Dr. Valentine annoyed me. Falling in love at first sight with the beautiful but utterly unsuitable Miss Clandon and then being afraid at the prospect of actually getting married to her exasperated me to no end. Something about You Never Can Tell makes me uncomfortable. Perhaps it is Mr. Crampton’s rough aggressiveness and bitter loneliness or perhaps it is the rather inhuman way all of his children behave.

Five Best Books: Genre Reads

In this week’s 5 Best Books we are asked to list our Five Best Books: Genre Reads.

As everyone pretty much knows my favourite genre is mystery, more precisely Golden Age cosy mysteries. I am also rather fond of reading classics. I am very much tempted to do a mystery or a classic top 5 but have decided against it. Seriously, how many more lists can I make with Pride and Prejudice topping the list and Cards on the Table popping up here and there?

Instead I would like to do a list on another one of my favourite genres, plays. Not many people like reading plays. They find all the dialogue going back and forth to be too distracting.  I know of only three people, besides me, who like reading plays! So here’s to a frequently neglected genre that deserves more appreciation from the readers,

1.  L’Avare (The Miser) by Jean-Baptiste Molière– 

L’Avare (The Miser) is a satire written in 1668 by French playwright Jean Baptiste Molière. It was first performed in 1668, in which Molière played the central role of the miser himself.

The first time I read it, I started off intending to read only a few pages. But I ended up reading the whole thing in just two hours. It is so quirky and funny and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it!

2.  Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller– 

Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller premiered in 1949 at the Morosco Theatre, New York City. The original production was directed by Elia Kazan and ran for 742 performances. The play won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play in 1949.

I was and still am greatly impressed by how as the state of Willy Loman’s mind deteriorates the line between the past and present fades away. Towards the end the past and present begin to coincide with one another. This is not a happy play but still it remains a favourite because of Arthur Miller’s incredible writing and strongly portrayed characters.

3.  The Rivals by Richard Brinsley Sheridan– 

Sheridan’s first and arguably most famous play, The Rivals, was first staged in 1775. The play was an utter failure on its first night. Undaunted by this calamity Sheridan radically re-wrote and re-cast the play. The play’s second performance was a hit with the public and made the young writer an instant success.

I still laugh at the same jokes even after many re-reads. I particularly like the scenes leading up to the proposed duel between Jack Absolute, Bob Acres, Faulkland and Sir Lucius O’Trigger. Bob’s and his servant David’s nervousness about the duel is hilarious!

4.  The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde– 

The Importance of Being Earnest: A Trivial Comedy for Serious People, first performed in 1895 at London.

The Importance of Being Earnest is my favourite play written by Wilde. The dialogues are so witty that I cannot read even two pages without finding something funny and laughing out loud. An unbelievably crazy and highly quotable play.

5.  Mrs. Warren’s Profession by George Bernard Shaw– 

Mrs. Warren’s Profession was a highly controversial play. It was banned by the Lord Chamberlain’s office on grounds of ‘glorifying’ prostitution. It was first performed at London’s New Lyric Club, a private club performance for members only and so in no need of censorship. In 1905 the whole crew and cast giving a public performance of it in New York City were arrested.

Interestingly, the play never mentions what Mrs. Warren’s profession actually is. We are able to draw inferences about it from the way the other characters of the play react to her and when she herself recalls the story of her youth. The Victorian society declined to acknowledge that such people (people like Mrs. Warren and her patron Sir George Crofts) exist. Even if they do such women were not to be discussed in public.

The atmosphere of the play is charged with intensity. Frank Gardner’s behaviour with Mrs. Warren and his relationship with her daughter Vivie and Sir Crofts’ attitude towards both of the Warren women are fascinating to watch.

I wouldn’t call this a light, entertaining play that one can read often. But I just find it to be a very interesting piece of literature.