Overview

Mrs Warren's Profession


Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

A: George Bernard Shaw W: 1893 Pf: 1902 (private performance); 1925 (public), London Pb: 1898 G: Drama in 4 acts S: Haslemere, Surrey, and London, 1890s C: 4m, 2fVivie Warren is a strong-minded young woman, who has excelled at Cambridge and now wishes to have a career in law. She is wooed by the local Rector's son Frank Gardner, and has also attracted the attentions of a rich old roué Sir George Crofts. On a visit her mother Mrs Warren reveals that her wealth and the funds that have provided Vivie's education and lifestyle have all come from the profits of running brothels on the European continent. Vivie rejects the advances of Sir George, who has profited from her mother's ‘profession’ and who now retaliates by declaring that Vivie is Revd Gardner's daughter and so Frank's half-sister. Vivie flees to her law offices in London, where Frank agrees to treat her as his sister, and where, despite Mrs Warren's pleadings, Vivie rejects her mother and begins a life of independence.

A: George Bernard Shaw W: 1893 Pf: 1902 (private performance); 1925 (public), London Pb: 1898 G: Drama in 4 acts S: Haslemere, Surrey, and London, 1890s C: 4m, 2f

Because of censorship by the Lord Chamberlain, public performance of this play was delayed by over three decades. Shaw's purpose in tackling as sensitive a subject as prostitution was not just to shock the Victorian public, but to argue that women could only with the greatest difficulty achieve success in society without resorting to prostituting themselves, either as harlots – or as wives (as such it was intended as a corrective to Pinero's The Second Mrs Tanqueray). He also suggested, as Brecht does in The Threepenny Opera, that illegal activities like prostitution merely reflect the acceptable exploitation of society by capitalism. But Shaw is not writing a political tract: the final confrontation between mother and daughter, whose priggishness prevents her becoming a tiresomely idealized figure, has considerable emotional power, which has assured the play continuing popularity.

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards) — Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


Reference entries
Authors

George Bernard Shaw (1856—1950) playwright and polemicist


Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.