The Philanderer
  • Publication Date: May 21, 2015
  • ISBN: 9781554812639 / 1554812631
  • 208 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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The Philanderer

  • Publication Date: May 21, 2015
  • ISBN: 9781554812639 / 1554812631
  • 208 pages; 5½" x 8½"

The second of Shaw’s “unpleasant” plays, written in 1893, published in 1898, but not performed until 1905, The Philanderer is subtitled “A Topical Comedy.” The eclectic range of topical subjects addressed in the play includes the influence of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen on British middle-class social mores (the second act of The Philanderer is set in the fictional Ibsen Club), medical follies, the rise of the “New Woman,” and, in particular, the destructive impact of Victorian marriage and divorce laws. Just as Shaw’s other “unpleasant” plays, Widowers’ Houses and Mrs Warren’s Profession, call, respectively, for reform of laws that allow corrupt property owners to exploit the poor and for radical change to economic structures that drive women into prostitution, so The Philanderer makes the case for more liberal legislation to allow easier divorce—particularly for women—when marriages become irretrievably broken.

Shaw’s attack on divorce laws becomes even clearer and stronger in the final act that he wrote for the play but discarded in favour of the version he published. The discarded version is published for the first time in this Broadview edition of the play.


“This is the indispensable version of one of Shaw’s most misunderstood plays. L.W. Conolly’s edition of The Philanderer finally makes Shaw’s original final act widely available for scholars and performers. Conolly provides the perfect biographical, historical, and philosophical source documents to decide whether or not Shaw was right to suppress his first ending—an important dramatic treatise on divorce laws and gender equality that is the foundation of later plays. Conolly is a sure-footed, amiable guide, illuminating the play’s production and reception history while providing the reader with all the tools she needs to understand why this ‘restored’ text is not simply a neglected curiosity, but instead a major event in the history of modern drama.” — Lawrence Switzky, University of Toronto

“L.W. Conolly’s excellent scholarship expertly guides both students and scholars through the tangled and fascinating history of Shaw’s controversial first draft of The Philanderer. Expressly prohibited by Shaw’s own will, the original third act was supposed to have been burned on the advice of a friend. Thankfully Shaw didn’t follow that advice, and Conolly offers a richly detailed, terrifically readable, and insightfully persuasive justification for going against Shaw’s will.” — Michael M. O’Hara, Ball State University

Not until L.W. Conolly’s excellent edition of The Philanderer were we able to read Shaw’s original last act in printed pages. It has been worth waiting for…Conolly’s first-rate introduction includes an account of Shaw’s efforts to secure a production of The Philanderer and its production history. More importantly, it treats Shaw’s changes to the final act…Conolly’s explanatory footnotes are invaluable for teachers, directors, and actors as well as students.— Bernard F. Dukore, English Literature in Transition 1880—1920

Bernard Shaw: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Text

The Philanderer

Appendix A: Shaw’s Original Final Act to The Philanderer (1893)

Appendix B: Shaw’s Prefaces to Plays: Pleasant and Unpleasant and
The Philanderer

  1. From the Preface to Plays: Pleasant and Unpleasant (1898)
  2. Prefatory Note to The Philanderer (1931)

Appendix C: Shaw and Ibsen

  1. From Clement Scott’s Review of Ghosts, Daily Telegraph (14 March 1891)
  2. From the Daily Telegraph Editorial on Ghosts (14 March 1891)
  3. From Bernard Shaw, The Quintessence of Ibsenism (1928)

Appendix D: Marriage and Divorce

  1. From the “Solemnization of Matrimony,” Book of Common Prayer (1901)
  2. From An Act to Amend the Law Relating to Divorce and Matrimonial Causes in England (1857)
  3. From “Indissolubility of Marriage,” Lipincott’s (July 1890)
  4. From Shaw’s Preface to Getting Married (1911)

Appendix E: Medicine and Vivisection

  1. From Shaw’s Preface to The Doctor’s Dilemma (1911)
  2. From Shaw’s Speech on Vivisection, Queen’s Hall, London (22 May 1900)

Appendix F: Contemporary Reviews

  1. From The Illustrated London News (9 February 1907)
  2. The Athenaeum (9 February 1907)
  3. From Max Beerbohm, “The Philanderer,” The Saturday Review (9 February 1907)
  4. From The Era (9 February 1907)
  5. The Sketch (13 February 1907)
  6. From the New York Herald (29 December 1913)
  7. From the New York Tribune (29 December 1913)
  8. From The Theatre, New York (February 1914)
  9. From St John Ervine, “The Philanderer,” The Observer (4 February 1923)

Select Bibliography and Works Cited

L.W. Conolly is Emeritus Professor of English at Trent University; an Honorary Fellow, Robinson College, Cambridge University; a Senior Fellow, Massey College, University of Toronto; and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He is the editor of the Broadview Edition of Bernard Shaw’s Mrs Warren’s Profession (2005) and the author of many other books on Shaw.