December 1, 2012
Mrs. Warren’s Profession, Capitalism and a Mother’s Sacrifice in The 19th Century
Mrs. Warren’s Profession is one of the most controversial plays by George Bernard
Shaw. Written in 1894, it was first produced eleven years later in America. It caused such social outrage among critics and the press that it was banned in England until 1925. While the subject matter would not be that shocking by today’s standards, it caused a lot of controversy back then. The play was originally banned by Britain's official theatre censor because of its discussion and portrayal of prostitution. Shaw divided his plays under two titles: Plays Unpleasant (1898), and Plays Pleasant (1898). He named his plays unpleasant because in these plays the reader is confronted with the unpleasant realities and, “cheated him of the thoughtless
entertainment or sentimental edification that he expected from the stage.” (Web.www.
The most emotional scene in the play is when Mrs. Warren reveals to her daughter Vivie her secret profession of prostitution. Mrs. Warren expresses what led her to choose this way of life, “Do you think I was brought up like you? Able to pick and chose my own way of life? Do you think I did what I did because I liked it, or thought it right, or wouldn’t rather have gone to college and been a lady if I’d had the chance?” (Shaw 64) Vivie responds in a negative way telling her mother:
Everybody has some choice, mother. The poorest girl alive may not be able to
choose between being Queen of England or Principal of Newnham; but she can
choose between rag picking and flower selling, according to her taste. People
are always blaming circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in
circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up
and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make...