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Thus Bernard Shaw, in a well-known statement from the Preface to his first, long unpublished novel, Immaturity, reflected on his decision to leave Dublin for London in 1876 at the age of 20. It was a retrospect written with the hindsight of almost fifty years: ‘There was no Gaelic League in those days, nor any sense that Ireland had in herself the seed of culture’. Such a view might well reinforce the impression that Shaw, like Wilde immediately before him, belonged to that older tradition of Irish dramatists – Farquhar, Goldsmith, Sheridan, Boucicault – who could only imagine success in metropolitan terms.
They met through William Morris at Kelmscott House. ‘An Irishman named Yeats talked about Socialism a good deal’, noted Shaw in his diary for 12 February 1888 (Diaries I: 348). Yeats for his part was a little less laconic in a long gossipy letter to his friend Katherine Tynan of the same date: ‘Last night at Morrises I met Bernard Shaw who is certainly very witty. But like most people who have wit rather than humour, his mind is maybe somewhat wanting in depth – However his stories are good they say’. Morris was a hero for both of them, though for quite different reasons. Yeats's interest in socialism was very brief; for him it was Morris's Pre-Raphaelite aestheticism that was so attractive. For Shaw, Morris was above all a prophet and a revolutionary, his poetry and his work in the decorative arts only the means to a greater end of radical social change. Shaw and Yeats's meeting ground in the Morris circle was symptomatic of their long, if intermittent relationship, a Venn diagram of overlapping interests flanked by distinctively divergent attitudes. It can be seen in their rivalry over the actress Florence Farr, with whom they both had affairs. It was a feature of Shaw's involvement with the Abbey Theatre, whether in relation to the Shaw play the theatre did premiere (The Shewing-up of Blanco Posnet) or those it did not (John Bull's Other Island, O'Flaherty, V.C.). In business and professional matters, where Yeats often depended on the older and more experienced Shaw for guidance, it was always with a degree of doubt and distrust; they had very different managerial styles. They were able to work together for common causes, but their opposed ways of seeing the world meant that they could never be close friends or collaborators.
Shaw and Yeats were both part of the Morris circle, but it was their common interest in Florence Farr that first brought them into frequent contact. Farr, an extremely good-looking married woman, estranged from her husband and sexually liberated – she ‘already had a sort of Leporello list of a dozen adventures’ by the time Shaw met her, he claimed – was a draw for both the inhibited and frustrated Irishmen. By 1890 Shaw was her lover, but Yeats was also a close friend and was to have a brief affair with her much later.
As a serious drama set in an ordinary middle-class home, Ibsen's A Doll's House established a new politics of the interior that was to have a lasting impact upon twentieth-century drama. In this innovative study, Nicholas Grene traces the changing forms of the home on the stage through nine of the greatest of modern plays and playwrights. From Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard through to Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire, domestic spaces and personal crises have been employed to express wider social conditions and themes of class, gender and family. In the later twentieth century and beyond, the most radically experimental dramatists created their own challenging theatrical interiors, including Beckett in Endgame, Pinter in The Homecoming and Parks in Topdog/Underdog. Grene analyses the full significance of these versions of domestic spaces to offer fresh insights into the portrayal of the naturalistic environment in modern drama.