Saturday, January 29, 2005 +

Bentley on Shaw (2004)

From Sally Peters, “Eric Bentley on Bernard Shaw: An Interview,” The Independent Shavian, V. 42, Nos. 1-2 (2004):

Bentley: In Saint Joan, the main point of the epilogue never gets across. It’s from another world. In 1923 when the play had its world premiere in New York, Lawrence Langner, the head of the Theatre Guild that produced it, sent a telegram saying the final Long Island train leaves at 11:10, could we please leave out the epilogue? Shaw suggested a change in the train schedule. . . . The epilogue is more than an epilogue. It is an epiphany! Lawrence Langner, like everyone else, failed to see that the play is (among other things) about Shaw. A history of that French peasant girl it is not! It is highly layered. All his plays are. One of the deep layers of Saint Joan, one of the deep layers in Shaw, is his feeling of not being recognized. The world doesn’t want great men. Or great women. . . . You mentioned my book  A Century of Hero Worship. Shaw was a hero worshipper. Different in tone from Carlyle, nevertheless he was obsessed with heroes and wondered if he himself was one. In the Carlylean sense, he was. For Carlyle saw even Shakespeare as a hero, the poet as hero.