Mrs. Warren's Profession

Vivie's character and the changing role of women

Men who could afford to get married in the Victorian era could make use of “laws that gave him total control of his wife's person—and her fortune”.[7] Victorian women were expected to maintain a poised and dignified manner, and to obey their husbands. Vivie defies the Victorian expectations of an obedient woman: she is educated and entirely self-sufficient. She rejects two marriage proposals, reflecting her reliance on her work ethic and hard-headed approach to life. Shaw represents Vivie as the product of a type of gender reformation: a character who is asexual and "permanently unromantic".[8]

Throughout the play, the boundary between sexual desires and proposed marriages is blurred. Frank flirts with both Mrs. Warren and Vivie; Mrs. Warren's companion Sir George Crofts proposes marriage to Vivie despite his relationship with her mother. Critic Petra Dierkes-Thrun argues that these examples illustrate the way in which Shaw "critiqued the ideological and economic system that produced her [Mrs. Warren], attacking the problematic double standard of male privilege and the deeply entrenched objectification of women, which Shaw saw pervading all levels of Victorian society down to its most basic nuclear element, the family."[9]


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