Bernard Shaw: The Ascent of the Superman

Sally Peters, Author Yale University Press $47 (342p) ISBN 978-0-300-06097-3
George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) was haunted by the idea that he was a reincarnation of William Shakespeare. According to Peters's startlingly incisive biographical study, full of fresh insights, Shaw saw himself as in many ways the idealized ""superman"" of his plays--the heroic artist as moral, powerful and courageous outsider. Yet Shaw, who hated hypocrisy, was, in Peters's estimate, an arch-hypocrite, touted as a feminist while he played women off each other in triangular relationships and used the threat of physical violence to assert control over his mistress, Irish widow Jane Patterson, whom he ""pretended to throw out of (a) window"" (in the words of Shaw's diary). Peters, a visiting lecturer at Wesleyan, says Shaw's unconsummated marriage to Charlotte Payne-Townshend was ""a protective but sterile womb"" and traces his misogyny to overidentification with his cold, selfish mother, who dumped Shaw's drunkard father. She illuminates the vegetarian, teetotaling playwright's obsessions, including his devotion to boxing and mountain climbing and his preference for unbleached, knitted wool clothing. Preaching eugenics, seeking spiritual salvation, Shaw projected his romanticized self-image onto the stage in telling parables for humanity. Photos. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/04/1996
Release date: 03/01/1996
Show other formats
Paperback - 344 pages - 978-0-300-07500-7
Hardcover - 353 pages - 978-0-585-36114-7
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
Email Address


Log In Lost Password

PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital editions of PW (online or via our app). For instructions on how to set up your accout for digital access, click here. For more information, click here.

The part of the site you are trying to access is now available to subscribers only. Subscribers: to set up your digital subscription with the new system (if you have not done so already), click here. To subscribe, click here.

Email with questions.

Not Registered? Click here.