Abstract Some soil and most rock masses contained defects (joints, cracks, bedding planes, fissures in clay, etc.). Beyond the peak shear strength of a mass of soil or rock, the stress falls as the strain increases. In this paper, the plane strain problem with double edge-cracks under shear loads is analysed based on linear elastic fracture mechanics but with finite stress concentration concept. We assumed that the fissured clay is a kind of strain-softening material and the growth of slip surface is along the maximum shear stress plane. The growth of slip surfaces in the progressive failure is expressed by the shear loads and slip displacement curves, which are obtained under the crack tip opening displacement criteria (CTOD c) or the energy release rate criteria ( J c ). The residual slip displacements are also taken into account by cumulating the elastic ones.