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Widower’s Houses

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Widower’s Houses

by George Bernard Shaw

Genre: Drama
Setting:
Format of Original Source: Play
Recommended Adaptation Length: Two Hours

Candidate for Adaptation? Not Likely

EXCERPT:

An early Shaw play (his first), exploring low-income housing and slum landlords. When a man discovers that his future father-in-law makes his money by renting slum housing to the poor, he is disgusted and refuses to allow his fiancé to accept money from her father, insisting they must live on Harry’s small income.

an excerpt:

BLANCHE. .Is it not true about the state of the houses, I mean?

SARTORIUS [calmly] Oh, quite true.

BLANCHE. Then it is not our fault?

SARTORIUS. My dear: if we made the houses any better, the rents would have to be raised so much that the poor people would be unable to pay, and would be thrown homeless on the streets.

BLANCHE. Well, turn them out and get in a respectable class of people. Why should we have the disgrace of harbouring such wretches?

SARTORIUS [opening his eyes] That sounds a little hard on them, doesn’t it, my child?

BLANCHE. Oh, I hate the poor. At least, I hate those dirty, drunken, disreputable people who live like pigs. If they must be provided for, let other people look after them. How can you expect anyone to think well of us when such things are written about us in that infamous book?

SARTORIUS [coldly and a little wistfully] I see I have made a real lady of you, Blanche.

BLANCHE [defiantly] Well, are you sorry for that?

SARTORIUS. No, my dear: of course not. But do you know, Blanche, that my mother was a very poor woman, and that her poverty was not her fault?

BLANCHE. I suppose not ; but the people we want to mix with now don’t know that. And it was not my fault; so I don’t see why I should be made to suffer for it.

SARTORIUS [enraged] Who makes you suffer for it, miss? What would you be now but for what your grandmother did for me when she stood at her wash-tub for thirteen hours a day and thought herself rich when she made fifteen shillings a week?

BLANCHE [angrily] I suppose I should have been down on her level instead of being raised above it, as I am now. Would you like us to go and live in that place in the book for the sake of grandmamma? I hate the idea of such things. I don’t want to know about them.



COMMENTS:

Not an interesting enough dilemma to sustain a musical; the topic of tainted money seems a bit antiquated, and not worth the theatrical candle spent to illuminate it.


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