Shaw and Barker After Their Divorce

By Robert Gaines


During the first decade of the 20th century, Bernard Shaw and Harley Granville Barker shared a close personal and professional relationship. Such projects as Barker- Vedrenne management of the Royal Court Theatre bear witness to that professional association. But events occurring during and after the First World War permanently ruptured their alliance. Nevertheless despite the fact that the two seldom spoke or corresponded after 1917, the same issues continued to eat away at each almost as if they were still in daily contact. This study, limited as it is to Shaw’s Heartbreak House and Barker’s The Secret Life, suggests that using Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde as their model, the two men explore themes of love, loss, war, and heartbreak in amazingly similar ways and urges a much closer look at their works after 1917 to unearth the ways in which they continued to influence and provide the intellectual foundations that drive one another.