Plays from the Women’s Suffrage Movement
Buy Votes for Women and Other Plays ed. Susan Croft
Press Cuttings by Bernard Shaw
Prologue by Israel Zangwill Before the sunrise there must come the grey, So bear with me – the prologue to the play. Not mere diversion is our true intent, To whisper it – on politics we're bent. While preachers rarely to performance reach, We at one blow shall both perform and preach. You dreamed us dummies to fit dresses on, To prop heroic mask of Amazon, Not so; behind our mask we keep our soul, Nor take our mimic world for the great whole. All noble causes tax our pence and prayers. Are all the men and women merely players, As Shakespeare said? Then players in their turn Are men and women who aspire and yearn. And is it true that all the world's a stage? Then we would act on that and on the age. And so we covet parts in that great play For which the whole world is a stage to-day; That draw with a purpose finely human, To raise man higher by uplifting woman. The scoff, the blow, the prison – worst of all, The bitter need like men to bawl and brawl. And wherefore, prithee, all this monstrous ransom? How is she not man's equal, save more handsome? In Shakespeare's day, if Clio's voice be truth's, His heroines were played by beardless youths. Just fancy Rosalind a real role, Quaffing between the acts her stoup of ale, Or Perdita concealing manly art, Or Desdemona shaving for the part. Imagine some mere man for Ellen Terry – You might as well replace champagne by sherry. We've won equality upon the boards, But on the world's stage men are still the lords, Making sad mischief with their stupid swords. The time is out of joint – let's set it right, Not whine and wail with Hamlet '’cursed spite' Ah, if instead of suicide suggestion To vote or not to vote had been the question Ophelia had met, with mocking flout, Hamlet's male insolence of sneer and doubt. Nunnery forsooth! When she at Hamlet's fat form Could thunder suffrage from the castle-platform! ' The time is out of joint?' Then what's the cure? Joint work of men and women to be sure. Joint work to foster every noble growth, Joint work to make a better world for both. Then have at you, my lords, on with the fray. How long, 0 lords? Till woman has her way.