George Bernard Shaw & Chekhov’s Gun: the Significance of Loose Ends in Mrs Warren’s Profession

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George Bernard Shaw & Chekhov’s Gun: The Significance of Loose Ends in Mrs Warren’s Profession “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall,” Russian playwright Anton Chekhov wrote, “then in the following one it should be fired.” The literary device known henceforth as Chekhov’s gun has since become a widely accepted technique used to prevent plot holes- essentially, writing via the principle of eliminating unnecessary diegetic elements. Yet, Shaw leaves so many loose ends – or pistols – lying around that one almost expects a gunfight at the end of ‘Mrs Warren’s Profession’. For one, the issue of incest is raised and virtually ignored, and the traditional romance/marriage plot characteristic of most storylines is sparked off but unfulfilled. Then, there is the pressing issue of questionable parentage, which remains unresolved, and the audience leaves the theater with their expectations frustrated. In this paper, I propose that the conspicuous loose ends Shaw leaves untied serve as a conscious and deliberate effort to draw our attention to and invite critique on certain issues in the 19th century. This essay aims to do this in two parts: the explication of the aforementioned loose ends and their consequences. I. The unfired pistols. Before we properly begin, it might be prudent to demolish the possibility of literary laziness or carelessness birthing these loose ends. Any reader of Shaw’s other works will undoubtedly acknowledge him as anything but a lazy writer - great thought and research has evidently gone into his other works and it logically follows this play warrants equal investment. Furthermore, a cursory examination of the text itself indicates high audience awareness evident in the self-censorship Shaw employs in his language. In constructing Mrs Warren’s Profession, he alludes to and hints at Kitty Warren’s profession but never

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