Heartbreak House (Paperback)
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Exclusive to Penguin Classics: the definitive text of Shaw’s telling indictment of the generation responsible for World War I—part of the official Bernard Shaw Library
A Penguin Classic
When Ellie Dunn joins a house party at the home of the eccentric Captain Shotover, she causes a stir with her decision to marry for money rather than love, and the Captain’s forthright daughter Hesione protests vigorously against the pragmatic young woman’s choice. Opinion on the matter quickly divides and a lively argument about money and morality, idealism and realism ensues as Hesione’s rakish husband, snobbish sister, and Ellie’s fiancé—a wealthy industrialist—enter the debate.
Heartbreak House was written between 1916 and 1917, as war raged across Europe. With its bold combination of high farce and bitter tragedy, it remains an uncannily prophetic depiction of a society on the threshold of an abrupt awakening.
This is the definitive text under the editorial supervision of Dan H. Laurence. This volume includes Shaw’s preface of 1919, the cast list from the first production of Heartbreak House, and a list of his principal works.
About the Author
George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950) is one of the world’s greatest literary figures. Born in Dublin, Ireland, he left school at fourteen and in 1876 went to London, where he began his literary career with a series of unsuccessful novels. In 1884 he became a founder of the Fabian Society, the famous British socialist organization. After becoming a reviewer and drama critic, he published a study of the Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen in 1891 and became determined to create plays as he felt Ibsen did: to shake audiences out of their moral complacency and to attack social problems. However, Shaw was an irrepressible wit, and his plays are as entertaining as they are socially provocative. Basically shy, Shaw created a public persona for himself: G.B.S., a bearded eccentric, crusading social critic, antivivisectionist, language reformer, strict vegetarian, and renowned public speaker. The author of fifty-three plays, hundreds of essays, reviews, and letters, and several books, Shaw is best known for Widowers’ Houses, Mrs. Warren’s Profession, Arms and the Man, Caesar and Cleopatra, Man and Superman, Major Barbara, Pygmalion, Heartbreak House, and Saint Joan. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1925.
David Hare (introducer) is an internationally-renowned playwright whose works include Plenty, The Judas Kiss, and The Blue Room.
Dan H. Laurence (series editor; 1920–2008) was series editor for the works of George Bernard Shaw in Penguin. Formerly a New York University faculty member, Mr. Laurence left his tenured position in 1970 to dedicated his life to the collection and curation of Shaw's life, work, and letters. He served as the official literary advisor to Shaw's estate and published four volumes of his correspondence.
By the Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature
“[Shaw] did his best in redressing the fateful unbalance between truth and reality, in lifting mankind to a higher rung of social maturity. He often pointed a scornful finger at human frailty, but his jests were never at the expense of humanity.” —Thomas Mann
“Shaw will not allow complacency; he hates second-hand opinions; he attacks fashion; he continually challenges and unsettles, questioning and provoking us even when he is making us laugh. And he is still at it. No cliché or truism of contemporary life is safe from him.” —Michael Holroyd
“In his works Shaw left us his mind. . . . Today we have no Shavian wizard to awaken us with clarity and paradox, and the loss to our national intelligence is immense.” —The Sunday Times
“He was a Tolstoy with jokes, a modern Dr. Johnson, a universal genius who on his own modest reckoning put even Shakespeare in the shade.” —The Independent
“His plays were superb exercises in high-level argument on every issue under the sun, from feminism and God, to war and eternity, but they were also hits—and still are.” —The Daily Mail