Read the controversial play that caused an international sensation when it was first performed. George Bernard Shaw's Mrs. Warren's Profession takes a frank and matter-of-fact look at the world's oldest profession and makes an explicit link between the second-class citizenship that has been foisted upon women for thousands of years and the persistence of prostitution as an occupation.
One of Bernard Shaw’s early plays of social protest, Mrs Warren’s Profession places the protagonist’s decision to become a prostitute in the context of the appalling conditions for working class women in Victorian England. Faced with ill health, poverty, and marital servitude on the one hand, and opportunities for financial independence, dignity, and self-worth on the other, Kitty Warren follows her sister into a successful career in prostitution. Shaw’s fierce social criticism in this play is driven not by conventional morality, but by anger at the hypocrisy that allows society to condemn prostitution while condoning the discrimination against women that makes prostitution inevitable. This Broadview edition includes a comprehensive historical and critical introduction; extracts from Shaw’s prefaces to the play; Shaw’s expurgations of the text; early reviews of the play in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain; and contemporary contextual documents on prostitution, incest, censorship, women’s education, and the “New Woman.”
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Seminar paper from the year 2003 in the subject English Language and Literature Studies - Literature, grade: very good, University of Hannover (English Seminar), language: English, abstract: In 1894 George Bernard Shaw wrote a play about prostitution called ”Mrs Warren’s Profession”. In Queen Victoria’s days it was forbidden to stage the play by censorship because of the shown decay and all the public theatres did not dare it. In 1902 a private theatre company that often staged forbidden plays in those days – the Stage Society – decided to perform it.1 But there is not only the aspect of prostitution dealt with in Shaw’s play. This essay will look into the relationship of Mrs Kitty Warren and her daughter Vivie, two totally different women who try to cope with life. For this reason their different ways of life shall be described and they shall be characterised. Afterwards their concepts of life will be compared and the conflict between mother and daughter will be examined. But the essay will not only contrast the two women but also show the similarities between them. 1 Shaw, George Bernard: Preface of Mrs Warren’s Profession. In: Plays Unpleasant. Harmondsworth: Penguin.1975. pp.181-182.
The play is a pure tragedy about a permanent and quite plain human problem; the problem is as plain and permanent, the tragedy is as proud and pure, as in OEDIPUS or MACBETH. - G.K. Chesterton, GEORGE BERNARD SHAW Completed in 1893, Shaw was forced to wait nine years before seeing his work on stage-in a private club. Its subject the Lord Chamberlain declared unsuitable for public performance. Mrs. Warren's profession is that of co-owner and operator of a string of brothels, a profession she has learned from the ground up. The tragedy reveals Mrs. Warren's path to her seemingly successful present and the resulting emotional confrontation with her daughter, who has discovered the truth of her absentee mother's past. The playwright's focus, however, is the reality of Mrs. Warren's story in the lives of thousands of English women who have chosen prostitution over poverty, abuse, hunger, and exploitation and danger in a dead-end factory job. MRS. WARREN'S PROFESSION caused a sensation in 1905 when after a public performance in New York, its cast was arrested and the play was forced to close after one performance for violating city obscenity laws. Twenty years later it was finally performed in public in London.