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The Last Word on Last Words: Shaw and Catastrophic Drama

The Last Word on Last Words: Shaw and Catastrophic Drama It is a peril: a deadly peril. And it is peril that educates us, not mere bayonet fencing and fisticuffs. Nations never do anything until they are in danger. --G.B.S., Geneva Contrary to what Don Juan might think in Man and Superman, Shaw writes in his 1896 essay ``The Illusions of Socialism'' that men make politically useful illusions ``as incentives to strive after better realities.'' Some illusions are necessary--they are the ``guise in which reality must be presented before it can rouse a man's interest, or hold his attention, or even be consciously apprehended by him at all''; some are foolish and even dangerous. The worst illusion in socialist terms, according to Shaw, is the millenarian tendency in Marxist thought, which primes revolutionary ``world-changers'' to anticipate a cataclysmic finale to the old regime and leaves them unprepared for the ``prosaic aspect'' of governance that will follow. Shaw unfavorably compares the catastrophic luridness of Marxist revolution to an ``Adelphi melodrama'': The dramatic illusion of Socialism is that which presents the working-class as a virtuous hero and heroine in the toils of a villain called ``the capitalist,'' suffering terribly and struggling nobly, but with a happy ending for them, and http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png SHAW The Annual of Bernard Shaw Studies Penn State University Press

The Last Word on Last Words: Shaw and Catastrophic Drama

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Publisher
Penn State University Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2007 The Pennsylvania State University. All rights reserved.
ISSN
1529-1480
Publisher site
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Abstract

It is a peril: a deadly peril. And it is peril that educates us, not mere bayonet fencing and fisticuffs. Nations never do anything until they are in danger. --G.B.S., Geneva Contrary to what Don Juan might think in Man and Superman, Shaw writes in his 1896 essay ``The Illusions of Socialism'' that men make politically useful illusions ``as incentives to strive after better realities.'' Some illusions are necessary--they are the ``guise in which reality must be presented before it can rouse a man's interest, or hold his attention, or even be consciously apprehended by him at all''; some are foolish and even dangerous. The worst illusion in socialist terms, according to Shaw, is the millenarian tendency in Marxist thought, which primes revolutionary ``world-changers'' to anticipate a cataclysmic finale to the old regime and leaves them unprepared for the ``prosaic aspect'' of governance that will follow. Shaw unfavorably compares the catastrophic luridness of Marxist revolution to an ``Adelphi melodrama'': The dramatic illusion of Socialism is that which presents the working-class as a virtuous hero and heroine in the toils of a villain called ``the capitalist,'' suffering terribly and struggling nobly, but with a happy ending for them, and

Journal

SHAW The Annual of Bernard Shaw StudiesPenn State University Press

Published: Oct 22, 2007

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