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Heartbreak House


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A: George Bernard Shaw W: 1913–19 Pf: 1920, New York Pb: 1919 G: Drama in 3 acts S: Shotover's home, England, the future C: 6m, 4fCaptain Shotover, an eccentric 88-year-old inventor, lives in the country with his daughter Hesione Hushabye and her family. Various visitors arrive: the young Ellie Dunn, destined to marry a rich industrialist, ‘Boss’ Mangan, only because he helped her inept idealistic father Mazzini Dunn; Lady Ariadne Utterword, Hesione's sister, and her weak husband Randall. Hesione's feckless husband Hector flirts with both Ellie and Lady Utterword. When Mangan falls in love with Hesione, he tells Ellie that she need not marry him, since he actually ruined rather than helped her father. However, she looks forward to a life of financial security, even though Shotover warns her against seeking material comforts. A burglar is caught and persuades everyone to contribute to a collection to finance his reform. Ellie is now completely in Shotover's spell and would gladly marry him but for his Caribbean wife. When an air raid begins, everyone awaits the onslaught with excitement. A bomb falls, but it kills only Mangan and the burglar, who were sheltering in Shotover's store of dynamite.

A: George Bernard Shaw W: 1913–19 Pf: 1920, New York Pb: 1919 G: Drama in 3 acts S: Shotover's home, England, the future C: 6m, 4f

Claiming that his play was written in ‘the Russian manner’, Shaw wrote the most enigmatic of his plays in a realistic setting, imitating some of the elements of Chekhov: the gathering of an idle community in a country house, where they talk, flirt, eat, fall in and out of love, and make vague pronouncements about their future. The only genuinely engaged individual is Shotover, to some extent based on Shaw himself, who may appear mad but who recognizes that humanity will need to navigate carefully if it is to avoid apocalyptic destruction from aerial warfare.

Subjects: Literature.


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George Bernard Shaw (1856—1950) playwright and polemicist


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