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George Bernard Shaw

  • Shaw's Birthdate

    Shaw's Birthdate
    George Bernard Shaw was born in Dublin, Ireland to Lucinda Elithabeth Shaw (singer and music teacher) and George Carr shaw (unsuccessful corn merchant). He had 2 older sisters, Lucinda Frances Shaw (famous opera singer) and Elinor Agnes Shaw.
  • His Childhood

    His Childhood
    Shaw had a distressed childhood with his father being an alcoholic and his father being an unsuccessful grain merchant which meant he grew up in poverty.
  • Early Education

    Early Education
    Shaw was tutored by his uncle until age 10. He then attended Wesleyan Connexional School and then 2 other schools for a brief time. He hated all of the schools and even said he never learned anything while attending these schools.
  • Shaw's Way of Learning

    Shaw was influenced by his mother's career as a singer and developed an interest in music, art, and literature. He would frequently visit the National Gallery of Ireland. This was the beginning of Shaw's growing interest in the arts.
  • Dysfunctional Family

    Dysfunctional Family
    Shaw's mother left her husband and him after his 16th birthday, she took her 2 daughters to London and left with her music teacher who she was having an affair with. His dysfunctional family will later show in his plays with him having common characters being a married couple and the woman interacting with an "odd-man-out figure" male figure
  • Quitting School

    Quitting School
    Shaw didn't like learning in an organized way like in school so he didn't return to school and got a job as a clerk in a Land Agency at 16 for 5 years. He didn't enjoy this job very much either.
  • Moving to London

    Moving to London
    Shaw decided to move to London to join his mother and sister (Elinor died at age 27 with tuberculosis). After he left, he did return to Ireland for another 30 years. He decided to pursue a career in writing novels and so had to depend on his mother's money to live.
  • His Unsuccessful Career In Writing Novels

    His Unsuccessful Career In Writing Novels
    He spent most of his time in the British Museum reading room, writing novels, and reading what he missed in school. His career of writing novels failed with his novels being rejected by publishers as well as articles submitted to the press. He wrote 5 novels through his 30s and all failed but he did not stop trying. He received very little money throughout the year and was struggling financially.
  • Shaw's Health Importance

    Shaw believed that disease is generated spontaneously from filth and spread vile gas. He took very good care of his body by body cleansing, wearing Hygenic wool, and following a vegetarian diet. Poverty was also a reason for Shaw's vegetarianism since when in London he refused to take work.
  • His political awakening

    His political awakening
    While failing to become a novelist, he gravitated towards progressive politics and became a socialists spokesperson. He joined the Fabian Society which is a group in favor of socialists ideals like socialized health care, the minimum wage reform, and protection of the impoverished masses. He lectured for the Fabian Society and wrote pamphlets on the progressive arts. He remained a socialist for the rest of his life.
  • Career as Critic Began

    Career as Critic Began
    Willam Archer was the first one to recruit Shaw to write book, art, and musical reviews. He wrote in the Pall Mall Gazette, World, and Star newspapers and he became successful since he had a good understanding of music and art.
  • Vincent Van Gogh's death

    Vincent Van Gogh's death
    Artist Vincent Van Gogh died in France at the age of 37 after shooting himself two days earlier. Van Gogh was never famous as a painter during his lifetime and constantly struggled with poverty. He sold only one painting while he was alive. Van Gogh's art became popular only after his death.
  • Plays Unpleasant and Plays Pleasant

    Plays unpleasant are his early plays that Shaw wrote and these plays show many unpleasant facts about society. These plays described problems of capitalism & explored existing moral and social problems. Plays Pleasant are filled with Shaw's signature wit with a social criticism that is from his Fabian Society Learnings. It is not his best work but he sets the groundwork for his career.
  • Widowers' Houses

    Widowers' Houses
    Widowers' Houses was written in 1891 and performed in 1892. It is about a well-intentioned young Englishman who falls in love and then discovers that both his prospective father-in-law’s fortune and his own private income derived from the exploitation of the poor,
  • Mrs. Warren's Profession

    Mrs. Warren's Profession
    Mrs. Warren's Profession was written in 1893 and performed in 1902. Its subject is organized prostitution, and its action turns on the discovery by a well-educated young woman that her mother has graduated through the “profession” to become a part proprietor of brothels throughout Europe.
  • Saturday Review

    Saturday Review
    Shaw was recruited by Frank Harris for the Saturday review where he started being a theater critic. This is where he began to write his own plays. He has to resign in 1898 due to an illness but in the meantime, he wrote several plays but failed to convenience the theatre managers to produce them.
  • Candida

    Candida was performed in 1897. This follows a heroine as she is forced to choose between her clerical husband, a worthy but obtuse Christian socialist, and a young poet who has fallen wildly in love with her. This play had a successful production at the Royal Court theater in 1904 which encouraged Harley Granville-Baker and J.E. Vedrenne to form a partnership with shaw to produce more plays with him.
  • Marriage to Irish Heiress

    Marriage to Irish Heiress
    Shaw was a bachelor for most of his life which is similar to some of the comical characters he writes about. He eventually marries Charlotte Payne-Townshend who was his unofficial nurse when he was sick with an illness and she came from a wealthy family in Ireland so she supported him financially while he wrote full-time. There were rumors that never consummated their marriage since they never had children and were thought to be mostly good friends that had to marry.
  • Caesar and Cleopatra

    Caesar and Cleopatra
    Caesar and Cleopatra was Shaw's first great play. In the play, Cleopatra is a spoiled and vicious 16-year-old child rather than the 38-year-old temptress of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. The play depicts Caesar as a lonely and austere man who is as much a philosopher as he is a soldier.
  • Man and the Superman

    Man and the Superman
    This was written in 1903 and performed in 1905. This follows a hero who is bent on pursuing his own spiritual development in accordance with this philosophy as he flees the determined marital pursuit of the heroine. This play's 3rd act "The Don Juan in Hell' science is spoken theatre at its most operatic and is often performed independently as a separate piece.
  • Major Barbara

    Major Barbara
    By 1910, Shaw has established himself as a playwright with his many successful plays including "Major Barbara". It follows an idealistic young woman, Barbara Undershaft, who is engaged in helping the poor as a Major in the Salvation Army in London.
  • Pygmalion & Adaptions

    Pygmalion & Adaptions
    Pygmalion is considered Shaw's comedic masterpiece and is his most popular play. It is about a poor, young flower girl who has been disrespected and overlooked because of her appearance and the dialect she speaks. Major adaptions of this play are the broadway musical in 1956 starring Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews. Also the on-screen film in 1964 starring Harrison and Audrey Hepburn.
  • World War I

    World War I
    Shaw received a lot of criticism for the "Common Sense about the War" Pamphlet that described the war as a tragic waste of young lives under the guise of patriotism.
  • Saint Joan

    Saint Joan
    Performed in 1923 and is also considered one of his masterpieces. It is based on the life and trial of Joan of Arc. It is said that this idea actually came from his wife, Charlotte.
  • Nobel Prize For Literature

    Nobel Prize For Literature
    This was awarded to him after "Saint Joan" and Shaw accepted the honor but he refused the money.
  • Academy Award for Best Writing

    Academy Award for Best Writing
    This award was given because of the success of the film for his play "Pygmalion" for best-adapted screenplay.
  • World War 11

    World War 11
    During WWII, Shaw had a hiatus and did not produce any plays. In the middle of the war his wife, Charlotte, died due to a lingering illness. After he moved to his country home in Hertfordshire village.
  • Death of George Bernard Shaw

    Death of George Bernard Shaw
    At age 94, he fractured his leg which led to other problems like failing bladder and kidney. He didn't seem interested in staying alive since he couldn't be active anymore. He even said that "Well, it will be a new experience, anyway." He died the next day.
  • Shaw's Impact

    Shaw's Impact
    George Bernard Saw is the most significant playwright in the English Language since the 17th century. He was a readable music critic, the best critic in his generation, a lecturer and essayist on politics and sociological subjects. He molded the political, economic, and sociological thoughts of 3 generations.