Heartbreak House

by Bernard Shaw

 

Bernard Shaw’s black comedy Heartbreak House is his response to the outbreak of the First World War. Set in a bizarre house in the English countryside, it is a satirical and often savage portrait of the educated leisured class of pre-1914 England. Having turned their back on their responsibilities, the inhabitants of Heartbreak House spend their time flirting and playing mind games with one another as their civilization goes under. They are idle and useless, and they know it. But at the end it looks as if retribution will come.

A powerful indictment of society’s collective failure that led Europe into catastrophe, Shaw’s masterpiece still has more than a few resonances for us today.