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Barbara Pfeifer

“A Dramatist for All Seasons: Shaw in Vienna 1934-1945”


In view of the omnipresence of George Bernard Shaw’s plays on the Vienna stage in the first half of the 20th century, even in the politically highly sensitive periods of Austro-Fascism and National Socialist rule, this paper investigates the various as well as diverse factors that contributed to the pervasive success of the Irish playwright in Austria. Though Shaw’s plays generally provoked a mixed reception from critics and audiences alike, his name never disappeared from the theater bills. His singular status in the Viennese theatrical landscape was even secured after the annexation of Austria to Hitler Germany, when productions of Shaw’s plays actually increased. In seeking the explanation for his protected position, the playwright’s comments on social and political issues of the time, which influenced his public image and thus the reception of his dramatic works in Vienna, are reviewed against the background of the political scene in Austria. Based on the analysis of key events such as the Akademietheater performance of You Never Can Tell on Hitler’s 50th birthday in 1939, the ways in which Shaw’s ideas were utilized to promote the spread of fascist ideology will be illustrated.