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Additional info for Bernard Shaw: A Critical View
The rest are petrified with the intensity of their sense of Virtue menaced with outrage by the approach offlaunting Vice. The reprobate appears in the doorway, graced beyond his alleged merits by the morning sunlight. He is certainly the best looking ofthefamily; but his expression is reckless and sardonit:, his manner defiant and satirical, his dress picturesquely careless . Richard [on the threshold, taking off his hat]: Ladies and gentlemen: your servant, your very humble servant. (CP, II, 7o-r) The play works throughout by means of this sort of arresting and Stage Tricks and Suspenses 39 stylised stage composition, and for it Shaw is prepared to forgo subtlety of character.
Blanche's passionate distaste for those beneath her- 'I hate the poor' -is presented as the ugly truth of her character; though we feel some sympathy for Sartorius in having created this lady-like monster, we feel more that the punishment fits the crime. In Mrs Warren, as in so many of Shaw's plays, we are asked to sympathise equally with Vivie and her mother, to engage emotionally with both their attitudes, and some measure of such sympathy is extended to all the other characters as well. Praed, occupying a similar supernumerary position to that of Cokane in Widowers' Houses, is as aimlessly pleasant as Cokane is aimlessly obnoxious.
Here and throughout the play Shaw gives his characters few shadings, transitions, gradual emotional developments. Everything is immediate and histrionic. The play is in fact so built around the big theatrical scenes that its success is threatened by such efforts as Shaw did make towards a greater degree of characterisation. General Burgoyne, the one historical figure in the play, whose biography Shaw had read and clearly could not help but admire, looks at one point like running away with the show, by virtue of his sheer strength and specificity of character.