Shaw believed that theatre audiences of the 1890s deserved more than the hollow spectacle and sham he saw displayed on the London stage. But he also recognized that people wanted to be entertained while educated, and to see purpose mixed with pleasure. In these three plays of ideas, Shaw employed traditional dramatic forms - Victorian melodrama, the history play and the adventure story - to turn received wisdom upside down. Set during the American War of Independence, The Devil's Disciple exposes fake Puritanism and piety, while Caesar and Cleopatra, a cheeky riposte to Shakespeare, redefines heroism in the character of the ageing Roman leader. And in Captain Brassbound's Conversion, an expedition in Morocco is saved from disaster by a lady explorer's skilful manipulation of the truth.
Dublin-born George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) was an active Socialist and a brilliant platform speaker. He was strongly critical of London theatre and closely associated with the intellectual revival of British drama. Dan H. Laurence (series editor) has edited Shaw's Collected Letters and Collected Plays with their Prefaces. He was Literary Advisor to the Shaw Estate until his retirement in 1990. Michael Billington (introducer) has been Drama Critic of the Guardian since 1971.