Heartbreak House
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Heartbreak House

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  1,185 ratings  ·  51 reviews
Entertaining allegory examines apathy, confusion and lack of purpose as causes of major world problems.

One of the distinguished comic dramatist's more somber plays, this entertaining allegory examines apathy, confusion and lack of purpose as causes of major world problems, with larger-than-life characters representing the evils of the modern world.

The house could arguably...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published January 1st 2001 by Penguin Classics (first published 1919)
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1 pint of Amsterdam Blonde
2 bottles of Sleeman’s Cream Ale
2 gin and tonics
3 shots of rye on the rocks
1 glass of champagne
1 bottle of Moosehead

Such was my alcohol consumption this New Year’s Eve. And yet, as you can plainly see, I remain strangely, depressingly lucid, but with a haunting premonition of a bloated, gassy hangover and a sort of lingering foretaste of a vomitous breakfast in a greasy spoon among the pallid reflections of last night’s beautiful young things, some of them still wearing...more
This play is another first for me, in the sense that it is the first work of Shaw's that I have read. At first I had to force myself to simply get through the rather hefty and, at first impression, vehementedly ranting preface, but shortly the reading became more absorbing. The preface mainly regarded the effect of WWI on the present British society, and was very passionately written, which struck me as rather odd because I'm accustomed to reading heavily phlegmatic prefaces. However, it did pro...more
I was pleasantly surprised to open this play and find the author's Preface which was not entirely about the play itself. Refreshing, really, because those pesky Prefaces and Introductions can contain spoilers which leads to the reader feeling pretty bummed out. But then I read the Goodreads description of the book and was spoiled anyway because whoever wrote it SUCKS.

Do not be discouraged by the Preface. I almost was because it took me three nights just to read it which, in the long run, is sill...more
Ira Bespalova
The only reason I gave it four stars is that I'm not into plays very much. Still I realize that the book is one of the greatest of its time with loads of genuinely funny dialogs and monologues and effervescent jokes.
The action takes place on the eve of World War I. And as it had been previously mentioned "lampoons British society as it blithely sinks towards disaster". Somehow I don't quite agree with that. Even though the story deals with Britain and the British, the whole situation, the relati...more
This play starts out as a traditional British class comedy, then the twist happen. The twist is that [SPOILER ALERT:] the rest of the book is awful. Just consider the dialogue that ends the first act:
CAPTAIN SHOTOVER: What a house! What a daughter!
MRS HUSHABYE: What a father!
HECTOR: What a husband!
MH: What do men want? They have their food, their firesides, their clothes mended, and our love at the end of the day. Why are they not satisfied? Why do they envy us the pain with which we bring them...more
May 09, 2009 Fox rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Fox by: School
Shelves: 2009, fiction
Heartbreak House was not what I would consider the best of George Bernard Shaw's plays. The Preface, in particular, was difficult to get through, but after a time it began to get interesting. The idea of the play was to write about World War I from a civilian's perspective -- the point of view of one seeing the War as a novelty rather than the tragedy that it truly was. The play takes place over (two? one?) night at a country manor in the shape of a ship, symbolic of a leisurely Europe sailing i...more
This was an interesting blend of satire, drama, and political and social commentary. I saw this play performed at The Shaw Festival last season, and it was difficult enough to watch, let alone read.

This is an experimental play. It starts out "normal" and then teeters into absurd, and then ultimately plummets into confusing. It's fascinating, and a few of the characters really stand out, but overall I found the play too confusing, a little preachy, and not as enjoyable as Shaw's other works (i.e...more


2.5 stars

Ellie Dunn, invited to visit Hesione Hushabye, finds a bewildering crew of would-be lovers and husbands among the guests. In the course of the day, she finds out more about them and herself.

There's quite a long and philosophical preface to this place, explaining why it wasn't published during the war (WW I), and giving Shaw a chance to lay out his views about capitalism, socialism, country society, and a range of other things. It's dated and not entirely consiste...more
Mar 16, 2010 Amanda added it
Shelves: owned-textbooks
This is actually a play which I read for my 20th Century British Lit. class. I wrote 2 papers using Literary Theory (Feminism and Psychoanalytic Theories) using this text, so I have read and re-read this several times.
It was enjoyable and full of wacky characters and weird situations. Taking place in the early 1900's in England during a time when they were involved in WWII. Shaw was against the war and known for being part of, and a big supporter of the Fabian Society.
J. Alfred
Complete with an author's introduction almost as long as the text of the play, Shaw shows his astonishing capacity to be very angry, very humanistic, and very funny at the same time. He's like a more modern Dr. Swift. The play itself is funny at parts but verges off into the weird and depressing by the end. But then he's trying to write an allegory for English society in war time, so I suppose weird and depressing is the way to be.
I'm disappointed in you, GBS. Your plays are usually awesome. This was utter filth. It was like a mixture of Victorian melodrama and modern teen angst. You must have been in a very bad mood.
Michael Meeuwis
Weird, not always lucid, and downright Beckettian at the end--it seems like everyone makes this point, but this has a lot of things unusual for a Shaw play. I want to go back and read it again, as there are things I don't think I quite understood. An unusually complex preface explaining Shaw's choice to withhold this play for production; the play, though, seems both to express but also exceed the preface. Just calling this an allegory--without explaining how that allegory works--seems to be the...more

Shaw at his best as a critic of Western hypocrisy.
Timothy Kerrigan
The Captain may be my favorite character in all of literature.
A classic Shaw play dealing with humanity on the brink of war.
this is one of my favorite plays.
Heartbreak House is a good introduction to Shaw’s plays, boldly asserting his views. Although never subtle, Shaw became more skilled at the presentation of his ideas in later plays. Heartbreak House is in your face. The Preface is essentially a long editorial about World War I from a civilian’s perspective. Clearly this is an anti-war play:
Heartbreak house was far too lazy and shallow to extricate itself from this palace of evil enchant...more
Aviso que en cuestión de teatro soy más de dramas o tragedias que de comedias (no me pasa lo mismo con las películas o las series de televisión). Y aviso que cuando empiezo una reseña con “aviso” es que el libro en cuestión no me ha acabado de gustar. Al principio, ‘La casa de los corazones rotos’ empieza como una farsa. Y es muy divertida. Y genial. Una serie de personajes insatisfechos, aquejados de spleen en mayor o menor grado, se encuentran en una casa de campo que pertenece a una familia e...more
This was my least favorite of the four of Shaw's plays that I have read. However, it was aptly named. It seems that in this play, everyone was in love with the wrong person and everyone continuously spun elaborate lies. It was hard to keep up with who loved whom and what was true or false. Then it felt as if the play ended rather abruptly, leaving me with many questions and qualms as to what had just taken place.
Brilliant and prophetic although slow in the second act. His characters are so humanly oblivious and morally bankrupt. They rush in and out of rooms in a confused manner, never quite sure of who they are or even of who they should be. That's our common dilemma, I suppose. We've jettisoned our "should be" and now have no moorings.

Shaw belongs in the absurdist camp with this play, if you want to stick him somewhere. Although he uses language coherently (no thanks to Becket, who just drivels), his...more
Tara☤Pentagram of Death Team Member☤ ♥'s Hooch

Going to see it on Saturday and will post my review after that with hopefully a sneaky picture of the set!
Nov 07, 2007 Lydia rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: plays
I just love Shaw. I love his crazy long prologues that are often even longer than his plays. I love his stage directions that take up an entire page. I love his wit and his feminist-celibate-vegetarian-tee-totelling-self. It's difficult in comedy, especially domestic comedy, to really be able to make you think above the humor, if that makes any sense. But Shaw does. His characters are nutty, but their stories bring up such important issues that you find yourself considering your own thoughts as...more
Hmmm... Not quite as engaging as George Bernard Shaw's Major Barbara, but it still has its moments. But the ending... Oh, the ending... A WTF moment if Shaw ever wrote one. Yes, that's it: the ending ruined it for me and left a weird taste in my mouth.
The essays at the beginning of the book were more interested than the actual play itself. The play itself has some funny scenes, and if you look at it as a play on memory rather than a play on 'life away from the frontlines' I can probably appreciate it more. However, it is definitely not Shaw's best work.
Apr 26, 2014 Susan rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: drama
I didn't give this a fair chance: I read it chopped up, in several different sessions, and kept forgetting who was who. And after all, it's a play, which should be watched rather than read. I think it is a play I'd enjoy seeing if I had the opportunity.
Interesting, deserving of a second read or so, but a good read nonetheless. A good play laced with politics, although at the end of it only did I understand it was a comedy it is more funny in the way the play is witty than actual actions in the play. A good read.
Mike Jensen
Have I ever read a Shaw play that seemed 5 star? Proabably not, but that may be because his world view and mine are so different. He was very clever, and his work is alway challenging. Read it and think about the sort of person you are.
Some cannot abide Shaw's pedantic and eternal dialogue, and while I see the inherent weaknesses of it, I confess a fondness for his verbose Britishisms. Heartbreak house is a marvelous parody of early twentieth century English society.
"Heartbreak House" is my pick as Shaw's greatest. He used Chekov as a model and lets his soul flow. He's lamenting as well as mocking the times he lived in and that makes for true theatrical greatness.
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George Bernard Shaw was an Irish playwright, socialist, and a co-founder of the London School of Economics. Although his first profitable writing was music and literary criticism, in which capacity he wrote many highly articulate pieces of journalism, his main talent was for drama. Over the course of his life he wrote more than 60 plays. Nearly all his plays address prevailing social problems, but...more
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