|Written by||George Bernard Shaw|
|Date premiered||16 April 1934|
|Place premiered||Little Theatre Company, Dallas|
|Subject||an odd couple spar with one another|
|Setting||A cruise liner; a village shop|
Village Wooing, A Comedietta for Two Voices is a play by George Bernard Shaw, written in 1933 and first performed in 1934. It has only two characters, hence the subtitle "a comedietta for two voices". The first scene takes place aboard a liner, the second in a village shop. The characters are known only as "A" and "Z".
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.
First conversation: On a cruise liner, A, an aesthetic young man, is writing. Z, a young woman, appears and tries to engage him in conversation, which he resists. He explains that he is writing about the cruise for the "Marco Polo Series of Chatty Guide Books". Z asks whether she will be included in his account of it, and replies that she will. She says she is thrilled, but must now give an account of herself, explaining that her father was a man of letters, as he was a postman.
Second conversation: In a village shop, A enters. He is served by Z, but does not recognise her. He gets into a conversation with her, and talks about having met a persistent woman on a cruise. Z asks him to tell her more about this woman. She eventually persuades him to buy the shop.
Third conversation: In the village shop again, A is now the owner of the shop, and is working on writing a checklist of reasons for staying there. Z argues with him about whether he is a shopkeeper or a poet. Eventually the pair decide they ought to be married. Z phones the church to make the arrangements. The play ends as she is about to tell the church their names.
The play was first performed on 16 April 1934 in Dallas, Texas, by the Little Theatre Company.Two weeks later, on 1 May, it was produced for the first time in England by the Wells Repertory Players, at Tunbridge Wells with Christopher Fry as A. Sybil Thorndike and Arthur Wontner gave the first London performance some months later at the Little Theatre in the Adelphi. Village Wooing was first shown on television in 1952 with Michael Golden as "A" and Ellen Pollock as "Z". There was an ITV version in 1979 starring Judi Dench and Richard Briers.
Christopher Fry was an English poet and playwright. He is best known for his verse dramas, notably The Lady's Not for Burning, which made him a major force in theatre in the 1940s and 1950s.
Dame Agnes Sybil Thorndike was an English actress who toured internationally in Shakespearean productions, often appearing with her husband Lewis Casson. Bernard Shaw wrote Saint Joan specially for her, and she starred in it with great success. She was made Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1931, and Companion of Honour in 1970.
Arthur Wontner was a British actor best known for playing Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's master detective Sherlock Holmes in five films from 1931 to 1937.
Shaw was not very impressed with his own play, which he wrote while on a cruise. He wrote a letter to his friend Blanche Patch saying "Tell Barry Jackson -- but no one else -- that my efforts to write resulted in nothing at first but a very trivial comedietta in three scenes for two people which only Edith Evans could make tolerable." Patch suggests that the play was influenced by his own experiences on the cruise and that the character of Z was based on Mrs. Jisbella Lyth, the postmistress in Shaw's village, Ayot St Lawrence.In a letter to Lillah McCarthy Shaw said that the male character was a "posthumous portrait" of Lytton Strachey.
Ayot St Lawrence is a small village and civil parish in Hertfordshire, between Harpenden and Welwyn. There are several other Ayots in the area, including Ayot Green and Ayot St Peter, where the census population of Ayot St Lawrence was included in 2011.
Lillah Emma McCarthy was an English actress and theatrical manager.
Giles Lytton Strachey was an English writer and critic.
Mrs Lyth later commented that she went to see the play when she was told she'd inspired it, but she much preferred a play by John Galsworthy that was shown with it in a double-bill, ,
John Galsworthy was an English novelist and playwright. Notable works include The Forsyte Saga (1906–1921) and its sequels, A Modern Comedy and End of the Chapter. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1932.
I was supposed to have inspired him for this play, but I don't know when he ever saw me wooing anybody! ...At that time I ran a café here, in addition to my duties as postmistress, and Mrs Arthur Wontner and her children came in one day for tea. She said, 'You're the lady who inspired G.B.S. for the play, and you must go up and see it'--so I did. Following it in the same programme was one of Galsworthy's plays called The Little Man, which I enjoyed much more than Village Wooing. I don't say Mr Shaw's aren't good plays, but I think they lack suspense. In spite of that, I wrote and congratulated Dame Sybil Thorndike on her wonderful portrayal of a postmistress in a little village shop. She autographed her picture for me and wrote on the back that she was most interested to know that she had been playing me, and would come and see me one day.
Shaw's friend Archibald Henderson agrees that the action in the village shop cum post-office was inspired by Shaw's experiences with Mrs. Lyth, but thinks the character of Z was mainly based on Shaw's wife Charlotte Payne-Townshend,
Archibald Henderson was an American professor of mathematics who wrote on a variety of subjects, including drama and history. He is well known for his friendship with George Bernard Shaw.
Charlotte Frances Payne-Townshend was an Irish political activist in Britain. She was a member of the Fabian Society and was dedicated to the struggle for women's rights. She married the playwright George Bernard Shaw.
Like Charlotte, "Z" is an adventurous uninhibited young woman of the new dispensation, who knows what she wants, is breezily amusing in her frankness; and after "A" has come like a homing pigeon to the village and purchased the shop, plucks him like a daisy, as did Charlotte, who, as we recall, purchased the marriage license...The vision of marriage drawn by "A" is memorable as a literary facsimile of the "marital compact" for the fin de siecle union of the Shaws. The "romance" of the marriage of "A" and "Z" reveals consummation, not as mere sensual gratification of the senses, but as a mystic rite of sublimation, in the discovery of life's aesthetic magic and wonder.
Critic John Bertolini sees the play as an allegory of the relation between writer and text, "In Village Wooing Shaw dramatizes his own creative process as a writer of comedies, by figuring the subject of comedy, courtship and marriage, as the marriage of writer and text." The marriage at the end is "the paradigmatic one of all written comedy, hence the play is the closed circle of its own writing and reading."
Arms and the Man is a comedy by George Bernard Shaw, whose title comes from the opening words of Virgil's Aeneid, in Latin: Arma virumque cano.
Man and Superman is a four-act drama written by George Bernard Shaw in 1903. The series was written in response to a call for Shaw to write a play based on the Don Juan theme. Man and Superman opened at the Royal Court Theatre in London on 23 May 1905, but it omitted the third act. A part of the act, Don Juan in Hell, was performed when the drama was staged on 4 June 1907 at the Royal Court. The play was not performed in its entirety until 1915, when the Travelling Repertory Company played it at the Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh.
A Woman of No Importance is a play by Irish playwright Oscar Wilde. The play premièred on 19 April 1893 at London's Haymarket Theatre. Like Wilde's other society plays, it satirizes English upper-class society. It has been performed on stages in Europe and North America since his death in 1900.
Mrs. Warren's Profession is a play written by George Bernard Shaw in 1893, and first performed in London in 1902. The play is about a former prostitute, now a madam, who attempts to come to terms with her disapproving daughter. It is a problem play, offering social commentary to illustrate Shaw's belief that the act of prostitution was not caused by moral failure but by economic necessity. Elements of the play were borrowed from Shaw's 1882 novel Cashel Byron's Profession, about a man who becomes a boxer due to limited employment opportunities.
Fanny's First Play is a 1911 play by George Bernard Shaw. It was first performed as an anonymous piece, the authorship of which was to be kept secret. However, critics soon recognised it as the work of Shaw. It opened at the Little Theatre in the Adelphi in London on 19 April 1911 and ran for 622 performances. The mystery over the authorship helped to publicise it. It had the longest run of any of Shaw's plays. A second production opened on Broadway on September 16, 1912 for 256 performances. The play toured the provinces in England in the same year.
Pygmalion is a play by George Bernard Shaw, named after a Greek mythological figure. It was first presented on stage to the public in 1913.
Misalliance is a play written in 1909–1910 by George Bernard Shaw. The play takes place entirely on a single Saturday afternoon in the conservatory of a large country house in Hindhead, Surrey in Edwardian era England.
Getting Married is a play by George Bernard Shaw. First performed in 1908, it features a cast of family members who gather together for a marriage. The play analyses and satirises the status of marriage in Shaw's day, with a particular focus on the necessity of liberalising divorce laws.
The Shaw Festival is a major Canadian theatre festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, the second largest repertory theatre company in North America. Founded in 1962, its original mandate was to stimulate interest in George Bernard Shaw and his period, and to advance the development of theatre arts in Canada.
How He Lied to Her Husband is a one-act comedy play by George Bernard Shaw, who wrote it, at the request of actor Arnold Daly, over a period of four days while he was vacationing in Scotland in 1904. In its preface he described it as "a sample of what can be done with even the most hackneyed stage framework by filling it in with an observed touch of actual humanity instead of with doctrinaire romanticism." The play has often been interpreted as a kind of satirical commentary on Shaw's own highly successful earlier play Candida.
The Shewing-Up of Blanco Posnet: A Sermon in Crude Melodrama is a one-act play by George Bernard Shaw, first produced in 1909. Shaw describes the play as a religious tract in dramatic form.
The Six of Calais is a one-act play by George Bernard Shaw. It was inspired by Auguste Rodin's sculpture The Burghers of Calais. It is a historical comedy about the conflict between Edward III of England and his wife Philippa of Hainault over his plans to punish the leading citizens of Calais for resisting the 1346 siege.
Buoyant Billions (1948) is a play by George Bernard Shaw. Written at the age of 92, it was his last full-length play. Subtitled "a comedy of no manners", the play is about a brash young man courting the daughter of an elderly billionaire, who is pondering how to dispose of his wealth after his death, a subject that was preoccupying Shaw himself at the time.
The Inca of Perusalem, An Almost Historical Comedietta (1915) is a comic one-act play written during World War I by George Bernard Shaw. The plot appears at first to be a fairy-tale like story about a fantastical "Inca", but it eventually becomes obvious that the Inca is Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany.
O'Flaherty V.C., A Recruiting Pamphlet (1915) is a comic one-act play written during World War I by George Bernard Shaw. The plot is about an Irish soldier in the British army returning home after winning the Victoria Cross. The play was written at a time when the British government was attempting to promote recruitment in Ireland, while many Irish republicans expressed opposition to a war to defend the British Empire.
Beauty's Duty (1913) is a short uncompleted "playlet" by George Bernard Shaw. It is a dialogue between a man and his lawyer about the man's wife. The husband has traditional views on marriage. The wife is more idiosyncratic in her thinking.
Overruled (1912) is a comic one-act play written by George Bernard Shaw. In Shaw's words, it is about "how polygamy occurs among quite ordinary people innocent of all unconventional views concerning it." The play concerns two couples who desire to switch partners, but are prevented from doing so by various considerations and end up negotiating an ambiguous set of relationships.
Press Cuttings (1909), subtitled "A Topical Sketch Compiled from the Editorial and Correspondence Columns of the Daily Papers" is a play by George Bernard Shaw. It is a farcical comedy about the suffragettes' campaign for votes for women in Britain. The play is a departure from Shaw's earlier Ibsenesque dramas on social issues. Shaw's own pro-feminist views are never articulated by characters in the play, but instead it ridicules the arguments of the anti-suffrage campaigners.