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Widowers' Houses

By: George Bernard Shaw

Widowers' Houses was the first play by George Bernard Shaw to be staged. It premièred on 9 December 1892 at the Royalty Theatre, under the auspices of the Independent Theatre Society — a subscription club, formed to escape the Lord Chamberlain's Office censorship.

The play comprises three acts:


In Act I a poor but aristocratic young doctor named Harry Trench and his friend William Cokane are holidaying at Remagen on the Rhine. They encounter fellow travellers Mr Sartorius, a self-made businessman, and his daughter Blanche. Harry and Blanche fall in love and become engaged.


Act II opens with everyone back at home in London. Sartorius, in talking to Mr Lickcheese, whom he employs as a rent-collector, reveals himself to be a slum landlord. He dismisses Lickcheese for dealing too leniently with tenants. Trench and Cokane arrive to visit, but when Trench discovers that Sartorius makes his money by renting slum housing to the poor, he is disgusted and refuses to allow Blanche to accept money from her father after they are married, insisting that they must live instead on Harry's small income. Following a bitter argument, they break up. Sartorius reveals that Trench's income depends on interest from mortgaged tenements, and is therefore as "dirty" as his own; but the lovers do not reconcile. Blanche utterly rejects Harry because of her wounded feelings.


In Act III, Trench, Cokane and Lickcheese return to Sartorius' house to plan a shady business venture. Trench, disillusioned and coarsened by knowing his income is tainted by its source, no longer takes the moral high ground. In the final scene, notable for its erotic tension, Harry and Blanche reunite.

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George Bernard Shaw

Ireland & England

Born in Dublin, Shaw moved to London in 1876, where he struggled to establish himself as a writer and novelist, and embarked on a rigorous process of self-education. By the mid-1880s he had become a r...

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