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How He Lied to Her Husband


HOW HE LIED TO HER HUSBAND
GEORGE BERNARD SHAW
PREFACE
Like many other works of mine, this playlet is a piece
d’occasion. In 1905 it happened that Mr Arnold Daly, who was then
playing the part of Napoleon in The Man of Destiny in New York,
found that whilst the play was too long to take a secondary place
in the evening’s performance, it was too short to suce by
itself. I therefore took advantage of four days continuous rain
during a holiday in the north of Scotland to write How He Lied To
Her Husband for Mr Daly. In his hands, it served its turn very
eectively.
I print it here as a sample of what can be done with even the
most hackneyed stage framework by filling it in with an observed
touch of actual humanity instead of wit h doctrinaire romanticism.
Nothing in the theatre is staler than the situation of husband,
wife and lover, or the fun of knockabout farce. I have taken
both, and got an original play out of them, as anybody else can
if only he will look about him for his material instead of
plagiarizing Othello and the thousand plays that have proceeded
on Othello’s romantic assumptions and false point of honor.
A further experiment made by Mr Arnold Daly with this play is
worth recording. In 1905 Mr Daly produced Mrs Warren’s Profession
in New York. The press of that city instantly raised a cry that
such persons as Mrs Warren are ”ordure,” and should not be
mentioned in the presence of decent people. This hideous
repudiation of humanity and social conscience so took possession
of the New York journalists that the few among them who kept
their feet morally and intellectually could do nothing to check
the epidemic of foul language, gross suggestion, and raving
obscenity of word and thought that broke out. The writ ers
abandoned all self-restraint under the impression that they were
upholding virtue instead of outraging it. They infected eac h
other with their hysteria until they were for all practical
purposes indecently mad. They finally forced the police to arrest
Mr Daly and his company, and led the magistrate to express his
loathing of the duty thus forced upon him of reading an
unmentionable and abominable play. Of cours e the convulsion soon
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exhausted itself. The magistrate, naturally s omewhat impatient
when he found that what he had to read was a strenuously ethical
play forming part of a book which had been in circulation
unchallenged for eight years, and had been received without
protest by the whole London and New York press, gave the
journalists a piece of his mind as to their moral taste in plays.
By consent, he passed the case on to a higher court, which
declared that the play was not immoral; acquitted Mr Daly; and
made an end of the attempt to use the law to declare livin g women
to be ”ordure,” and thus enforce silence as to the far-reaching
fact that you cannot cheapen women in the market for industrial
purposes without cheapening them for other purposes as well. I
hope Mrs Warren’s Profession will be played everywhere, in season
and out of season, until Mrs Warren has bitten that fact into the
public conscience, and shamed the newspapers which support a
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