Mrs. Warren’s Profession is one of three plays that feature in George Bernard Shaw’s collection titled “Plays Unpleasant”, each of which Shaw indicated “force the spectator to face unpleasant facts”. Shaw was an early advocate of feminism, so he wrote Mrs. Warren’s Profession to highlight the capitalist and chauvinist society and challenge how people view the role of women within society. The play takes a critical look at the male double standard and how women are objectified. Victorian society created a rigid outline where the roles of women and men were clearly defined. Through the use of characterisation Shaw manages to emphasise the controversies that affected Victorian society; this is achieved mainly through the relationship of Kitty Warren and her daughter Vivie. The plays themes and motivations led to the Lord Chamberlain’s decision to ban the play on the grounds of its frank discussion and portrayal of prostitution. Shaw claimed that no respectable women who could earn a decent wage would become whores and no woman would marry for money if she could marry for love.
Kitty Warren epitomises this very idea in her conversation with Vivie;
Why shouldn’t I have done it? The house in Brussels was real high-class; a much better place for a woman to be in than the factory where Anne Jane got poisoned. None of our girls were ever treated as I was treated in the scullery of that temperance place, or at the Waterloo bar, or at home. Would you have had me stay in them and become a worn-out old drudge before I was forty? (Mrs. Warren's Profession.ii.248)
Shaw manages to recognise the importance of the female role model; the four male characters within the play appear only to satellite the two female leads. Kitty Warren not only occupies the role of distant mother, but also that of business woman. The stage directions for the play describe Kitty as initially being spoilt and domineering and even vulgar but as the play progresses she is revealed to be smart if somewhat manipulative mother and business woman. The male leads with the exception of Frank Gardner have all had sexual relations with Kitty, leading them to question themselves and each other as to who is the father of Vivie. Kitty wants a different life for Vivie, a life where she no longer has to suffer the suppressions of society, she appears to be a hybrid of new and old social values, the fact that she refuses to allow Frank to marry Vivie, because he is penniless affirming her view on the matter;
“Your love’s a pretty cheap commodity, my lad. If you have no means of keeping a wife, that settles it: you cant have Vivie.” (Mrs. Warren's Profession.ii,235)
Kitty still however remains restricted by the social restraints. The men within the play, especially Sir George Croft still have an influence over her, due to her being deeply affected by societies constraints towards women.
Shaw’s idea of new women uninhibited by society’s restraints is present in Vivie; unlike her mother who...