|Augustus Does His Bit|
|Written by||George Bernard Shaw|
|Date premiered||21 January 1917|
|Place premiered||Court theatre, London|
|Subject||A self-important aristocrat is outwitted by a female spy|
Augustus Does His Bit: A True-to-Life Farce (1916) is a comic one-act play by George Bernard Shaw about a dim-witted aristocrat who is outwitted by a female spy during World War I.
George Bernard Shaw, known at his insistence simply as Bernard Shaw, was an Irish playwright, critic, polemicist and political activist. His influence on Western theatre, culture and politics extended from the 1880s to his death and beyond. He wrote more than sixty plays, including major works such as Man and Superman (1902), Pygmalion (1912) and Saint Joan (1923). With a range incorporating both contemporary satire and historical allegory, Shaw became the leading dramatist of his generation, and in 1925 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.
In the small town of Little Pifflington, Lord Augustus Highcastle tells his secretary Horatio Beamish that the war is a very serious matter, especially as he has three German brothers-in-law. He soon learns that a female spy is after an important document in his possession. A glamorous woman visits him. After flattering him by saying how important he is, she tells him that she suspects her sister-in-law of being the spy. She explains that Augustus' brother, known as "Blueloo", has made a bet that Augustus can be easily tricked, and intends to use this woman to prove it. If she can get the document, a list of British gun emplacements, and take it to "Blueloo", Augustus's incompetence will be exposed.
Beamish enters holding the document, which Augustus had left on a coffee table in the hotel. The lady manages to switch the document for a fake one and leaves. Having secured the document before witnesses, she returns to telephone the War Office. She tells "Blueloo" that she easily outwitted Lord Augustus. Augustus then realises that she was the spy and the document he has is a fake.
The play was produced on 21 January 1917, at the Court theatre for the Stage Society. Like its predecessor The Inca of Perusalem it was originally presented anonymously, advertised as a "play in one Act by the author of The Inca of Perusalem." Shaw commented that some critics were not pleased by the satire of the war effort: "The shewing up of Augustus scandalized one or two innocent and patriotic critics, who regarded the prowess of the British Army as inextricably bound up with Highcastle prestige, but our Government Departments knew better. Their problem was how to win the war with Augustus on their backs, well meaning, brave, patriotic, but obstructively fussy, selfimportant and imbecile."The play contains several typical Shavian themes: women outwitting men and the incompetence of the aristocratic ruling class, most notably. The references to the aristocracy's German family connections corresponds with the views Shaw expressed in his booklet Common Sense about the War.
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