Why She Would Not

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Why She Would Not
George Bernard Shaw 1934-12-06.jpg
Written by George Bernard Shaw
Original language English
Subject A woman's life is modernised against her inclination
Genre comedy

Why She Would Not: A Little Comedy (1950) is the last play written by George Bernard Shaw, comprising five short scenes. The play may or may not have been completed at his death. It was published six years later.

George Bernard Shaw Irish playwright, critic and polemicist, influential in Western theatre

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.



Shaw's neighbour and illustrator Clare Winsten said that Shaw had described his initial idea for the plot to her, saying: "I am writing a play in which there is an old man who has a housekeeper who is so houseproud that she gradually eliminates everything that is personal in the house until he feels a perfect stranger there." [1] He also discussed the play with Nancy Astor, whose friend Judy Musters typed up Shaw's manuscript. [2] According to Michael Holroyd he wrote it in one week in July 1950, shortly before his 94th birthday. [3] He died four months later.

Sir Michael de Courcy Fraser Holroyd is an English biographer.

In the final version, the genders of the characters are reversed, with a male figure appearing in the "housekeeper" role.


A tramp called Henry Bossborn rescues a young woman from a robber in the woods. He learns that she is Serafina White, the granddaughter of an elderly businessman who runs the largest timber merchants in the country. As a reward, he asks for a job in the business — but on his own terms. She agrees. Soon he has transformed the business and increased its profits. He has also started his own property-development company. He knocks down the old mansion in which Miss White grew up and replaces it with a new super-efficient modernistic home. He expects to marry her and move into the new house. She is unhappy with the changes and refuses to marry him. He explains that he is serving the "life force" which demands renewal, but she is unwilling to fully accept this, and agrees only to friendship, not marriage.

Publication and completions

The play was published in The London Magazine in August, 1956. Because the play ends abruptly, it has been argued that Shaw intended to add one more scene. [4] However after the publication Dan H. Laurence examined the surviving manuscripts. In his essay "The Facts about Why She Would Not" (1956), he argued that the play was completed, noting that the shorthand version of the manuscript ends with the words "End of Scene 5 and of the play". [5] Holroyd says it was written quickly, and that the figure of Bossborn, who moves from a tramp to a form of superman, is a version of Shaw himself, including his inability to overcome his personal isolation. [3] In 2009 David Staller, founder of the Gingold Theatrical Group commissioned five different final scenes from five writers: Israel Horovitz, Michael Feingold, David Cote, Jeremy McCarter and Robert Simonson. [6] [7]

<i>The London Magazine</i> literary periodical; publication of arts, literature and miscellaneous interests

The London Magazine is a publication of arts, literature and miscellaneous interests. Its history ranges across nearly three centuries and several reincarnations, publishing writers including William Wordsworth, William S. Burroughs and John Keats.

David Staller

David Staller is an American Theatre Director and Actor. He is the founding Artistic Director of the Off-Broadway Theatre Company, Gingold Theatrical Group. As an actor, Staller appeared on Broadway and Off-Broadway in over 50 plays. His performance in Gas Light earned him a Distinguished Performer citation from the Drama League.

Gingold Theatrical Group

Gingold Theatrical Group, often abbreviated as GTG, is a New York-based non-profit theatre company. It was founded in 2006 by American actor and director David Staller. Its mission is to present works that carry the humanitarian values of writer and critic George Bernard Shaw. It presents several series, including the annual festival Shaw New York, and the monthly series of staged readings, Project Shaw. Through this series, GTG became the first theatre group to present all 65 of George Bernard Shaw's plays.

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  1. Brown University: The Quintessential G.B.S. : Plays
  2. Wearing, JP (ed), Selected Correspondence of Bernard Shaw: Bernard Shaw and Nancy Astor, University of Toronto Press, p.213.
  3. 1 2 Holroyd, Michael, Bernard Shaw, Random House, 2011, p.787.
  4. Dervin, Daniel, Bernard Shaw: A Psychological Study, Bucknell University Press, 1975, p.109.
  5. Laurence, D.H., ""The Facts about Why She Would Not", Theatre Arts, August 1956.
  6. The Criterion
  7. Belcher, David, "For Shaw’s Last Play, Choice of Final Scenes ", New York Times, 1 December, 2009.