That prostitution in Mrs. Warren’s Profession is a metaphor is evident not only in the fact that the play as a whole is a metaphor for multigenerational dynamics but also in the fact that prostitution is only the most egregious example of social taboos around which social hypocrisy is systematically organized. The breadth and depth of the hypocrisy and the economic and social injustice that the hypocrisy conceals are the real subjects of the play. Prostitution is only the conveniently concrete activity around which the discourse of subject matter can be organized. For the real theme of Mrs. Warren’s Profession is articulated in Shaw’s prologue to the play, which is an essay on what Shaw refers to as the “problem play.” [O]nly in the problem play is there any real drama, because drama is no mere setting up of the camera to nature: it is the presentation in parable of the conflict between Man’s will and his environment: in a word, of problem (Shaw 45). Mrs. Warren’s Profession sets the wills of Mrs. Warren and Vivie against each other, indeed, on a collision course, after Vivie recognizes that her mother not only was an unwed mother and prostitute but that she remains a madam in partnership with Crofts. Vivie’s sense of betrayal at her mother’s incomplete story of her profession is not due to knowledge that she was an illegitimate baby. Indeed, Vivie perfectly accepts her mother’s logic--laden with sharp social analysis--that “[t]he only way for a woman to provide for herself decently is for her to be good to some man that can afford to be good to her” (MWP 61), whether by marrying someone of her own station or taking up with a well-off man. Vivie expresses admiration for her mother precisely because of that logic. The betrayal comes when it turns out that she is by no means retired but is by way of being an international procuress, or, as Crofts has it, “managing director,” of locations in Brussels, Ostend, Vienna, and Budapest. The strength of...
Cited: Shaw, George Bernard. “Author’s Apology from Mrs. Warren’s Profession.” New York: Brentano’s, 1905.
---. Mrs. Warren’s Profession. Toronto: Kessinger Publishing, 2004.
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