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The Art of War: Music in Shaw's Plays

The Art of War: Music in Shaw's Plays The focus here is not on Shaw's views about war--which are well treated by others--but on the role of music, which is particularly emphasized in those of Shaw's plays that deal with war.1 Indeed, in some it is so central that they could be classified as musical drama. Where it is used in standard theatrical performances, musical references in the dialogue, songs sung by the characters, or musical pieces played by them--and for spoken drama, Shaw's war plays contain a surprising number of such musical injections-- music traditionally fills a number of functions: it can be used to define personality or as commentary on a character, as plot development, and to provide emotional context or even as a form of dramatic structure. And Shaw uses music in all these ways. However, in addition, to shaping audience response, the music in Shaw's war plays becomes an ordering principle that offsets the carnage and chaos of modern warfare. Shaw only deals with war obliquely in his drama, yet the theme is anything but peripheral. In Saint Joan, for instance, war is a continual backdrop throughout the action, even though the nearest Shaw gets to depicting any actual fighting is when http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png SHAW The Annual of Bernard Shaw Studies Penn State University Press

The Art of War: Music in Shaw's Plays

SHAW The Annual of Bernard Shaw Studies , Volume 28 (1) – Dec 24, 2008

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Publisher
Penn State University Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2008 The Pennsylvania State University
ISSN
1529-1480
Publisher site
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Abstract

The focus here is not on Shaw's views about war--which are well treated by others--but on the role of music, which is particularly emphasized in those of Shaw's plays that deal with war.1 Indeed, in some it is so central that they could be classified as musical drama. Where it is used in standard theatrical performances, musical references in the dialogue, songs sung by the characters, or musical pieces played by them--and for spoken drama, Shaw's war plays contain a surprising number of such musical injections-- music traditionally fills a number of functions: it can be used to define personality or as commentary on a character, as plot development, and to provide emotional context or even as a form of dramatic structure. And Shaw uses music in all these ways. However, in addition, to shaping audience response, the music in Shaw's war plays becomes an ordering principle that offsets the carnage and chaos of modern warfare. Shaw only deals with war obliquely in his drama, yet the theme is anything but peripheral. In Saint Joan, for instance, war is a continual backdrop throughout the action, even though the nearest Shaw gets to depicting any actual fighting is when

Journal

SHAW The Annual of Bernard Shaw StudiesPenn State University Press

Published: Dec 24, 2008

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