george bernard shaw

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  • 1. George Bernard Shaw 1856-1950


  • Born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1856, George Bernard Shaw grew to become one of Great Britain's greatest and most controversial playwrights. And that doesn't eventouchon his scandalous private life! His most famous play,Pygmalion(1913), tells the story of a cockney girl who learns to pass as a lady with the help of a private tutor. Sound familiar? It was made into the classical musical hit,My Fair Lady,exactly one century after the author's birth.


  • Shaw was born to George Carr Shaw, who was in the wholesale grain trade, and Lucinda Elisabeth Gurly Shaw, 16 years her husband's junior and the daughter of an impoverished landowner. Lucinda was a professional singer, the sole disciple of Vandeleur Lee, a voice teacher whose primary claim to fame was having a "unique and original" approach to singing.

4. The Boys Bedroom and a Favourate Bench in the Garden 5. Dalkey Harbour,Another Favourate Place 6.

  • As a boy, young George led a troubled life. His father was an alcoholic, which turned his son into a teetotaler. His father was a lout, which turned his son into a cynic. His father was a wife batterer, which turned his son into a pacifist. When Shaw's father died in 1885, neither his children nor his wife attended the funeral.


  • Shaw and his two sisters grew up in relative poverty in an unfashionable part of Dublin. When Shaw was just short of his sixteenth birthday, his mother left her husband and son and moved with Vandeleur Lee to London.Shaw remained in Dublin with his father in order to finish school, which he hated, and continue working as a clerk for an estate office, which he also hated


  • 1866, Shaw's father inherited some money and moved the family to a better neighborhood. Shaw was enrolled in the Wesleyan Connexional School before transferring to a private school near Dalkey. He attended Dublin's Central Model School before gleefully ending his formal education at the Dublin English Scientific and Commercial Day School.


  • In 1876, Shaw, now free from school and nearing the age of adulthood, joined his sister and mother in London. He did not return to Ireland for nearly thirty years. In London, he lived off of his mother and sister while pursuing a career in journalism and writing. At first, he wrote prose, completing five novels before any of them was published.


  • During the next two years, Shaw educated himself, mostly at the British Museum, where he used to go to appease his voluminous appetite for reading. His first novel, the semi-autobiographicalImmaturity , was published without much fanfare. A vegetarian who eschewed both alcohol and tobacco, Shaw found flaws in British society wherever he looked.


  • Together with friends Beatrice and Sidney Webb, he founded the Fabian Society, a middle-class Socialist group that eventually boasted H. G. Wells and other prominent thinkers of the day as members. He served on the executive committee of the Society, which would be instrumental in founding the London School of Economics and the Labor Party, from 1885 to 1911.

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  • A man of many causes, young Shaw the Socialist supported such diverse concepts as the abolition of private property, radical changes in the voting system, the simplification of spelling, and the reform of the English alphabet. Standing on soapboxes at Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park and at various socialist rallies, he gradually learned to overcome his stage fright and the stammer that had haunted him for years. To keep the crowd's attention, he developed an energetic and aggressive speaking style that is evident in all of his writing.


  • In 1892, Shaw wrote his first play,Widowers' Houses , about the evils of slumlords. The play was attacked savagely by people who opposed his politics. It was then that Shaw knew he was a good playwright--hemusthave been to have upset so many people with his social commentary. He went on to revolutionize the English theater by concentrating his writing on various social issues at a time when most other playwrights were writing "sentimental pap."


  • In 1898, after a serious illness, Shaw moved out of his mother's house (where he was still living) and married Charlotte Payne-Townsend, an Irish woman of independent means. Their marriage would last until Charlotte's death in 1943. The newlyweds settled in 1906 in the Hertfordshire village of Ayot St. Lawrence. Upon their marriage, Shaw--who never believed in the institution personally--wrote up his own "terrible adventure" anonymously, in the manner of a farce, and sent it to the local tabloids:

Manor House 17. Ayot Cottage St. Lawrence Church 18.

  • The forty-five years spent together were, indeed, "blissful," although, by mutual consent, sexless. With the support of his wife's money and management, Shaw was able to maintain his remarkable productivity.
  • Toward that end, he carried on a passionate correspondence with Mrs. Patrick Campbell, a widow and actress who won the starring role inPygmalionbecause no other actress was willing to say the word "Bloody" in public--something that Shaw demanded of his lower class leading


  • In his writings, Shaw--ever thesoapbox orator--tackled contemporary moral problems and presented them paradoxically, relying on irony and sarcasm to delivery his point. Many of his best works, includingMan and Superman(1902),John Bull's Other Island(1904), andMajor Barbara(1905), the story of a liberated woman in the Salvation Army during the battle for equal rights, were philosophical addresses on the subject of individual responsibility and freedom of spirit as they confronted the conforming demands of society.


  • Shaw's dramatic output screeched to a halt. He produced only one major play during the World war I,Heartbreak House , into which he poured his feelings of hopelessness and despair about British society and the future.
  • Following the war, Shaw rediscovered his dramatic voice and slowly began rebuilding his reputation, first with a series of five plays about "creative evolution," includingBack to Methuselah , and then, in 1923, withSaint Joan .


  • Saint Joan(1923), the story of Joan of Arc who had been canonized four years earlier, was royally received. Critics called it the playwright's masterpiece, and it helped Shaw climb back up from the ashes into the good graces of both peers and public. He suddenly found himself acclaimed as a "Second Shakespeare," a new revolutionary in the staid British theater, a harbinger of light in a dismal Drury Lane.


  • The political turmoil in his native country did not leave him untouched. Shaw campaigned against the executions of the rebel leaders of the Easter Rising, and he became a personal friend of the Cork-born IRA leader Michael Collins, whom he invited to his home for dinner while Collins was negotiating the Anglo-Irish Treaty with Lloyd-George in London. After Collins's assassination in 1922, Shaw sent a personal message of condolence to one of Collins's sisters.


  • Shaw had a long time friendship with G. K. Chesterton, the Catholic-convert British writer, and there are many humorous stories about their complicated relationship. Another great friend was the composer Edward Elgar. Shaw's correspondence with the motion picture producer Gabriel Pascal, who was the first to successfully bring Shaw's plays to the screen and who later adapted Pygmalion into "My Fair Lady."
  • Shaw is the only person ever to have won both a Nobel Prize (for Literature in 1925) and an Academy Award (Best Screenplay for Pygmalion in 1938).

Belloc, Shaw,and Chesterton 24.

  • From 1906 until his death in 1950 at the age of 94 due to a fall from a ladder, Shaw lived at Shaw's Corner in the small village of Ayot St Lawrence, Hertfordshire. The house is now a National Trust property, open to the public.

25. Some Scenesfrom His Plays Major Barbara 26. My Fair Lady 27. 1 2 28. 3 4 29. 5 6 30. 7 8 31. 9 10 32. 11 12 13 14 33. 15 16


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