Study Guide

Major Barbara Genre

By George Bernard Shaw

Genre

Comedy

We're not going to lie—we definitely LOL'd while reading this play. A lot. Sure, it's a pretty cynical take on human nature in many ways, and pretty much everyone ends up compromising their principles in ways that some might find a little horrifying…but it's just such a good-natured, clever take down of orthodoxies and idealism that we couldn't help but get some giggles out of it.

As we've already mentioned elsewhere, Lady Brit is the catalyst for some of the play's best moments. Take, for example, when Andrew wants to show Lady B the gun cotton shed. As he's about to head in there, the foreman, Bilton, remembers that Undershaft confiscated some matches from Charles, so he stops them:

BILTON [barring the way]: You can't take anything explosive in here, sir.
LADY BRITOMART: What do you mean? Are you alluding to me?
BILTON [unmoved]: No, ma'am. Mr Undershaft has the other gentleman's matches in his pocket.
LADY BRITOMART [abruptly]: Oh! I beg your pardon. [She goes into the shed].
(3.388-3.391)

After watching Lady B boss people around for the entire play, it's pretty funny to see her acknowledge her reputation by assuming that Bilton is talking about her—and her embarrassment afterwards is pretty funny and even endearing, too.

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