George Bernard Shaw was born on the 26th of July in 1856, in Dublin, Ireland. His father, Carr Shaw, was a civil servant, while his mother, Lucinda Elizabeth Gurly Shaw was a gifted singer and music teacher. George grew up in poverty and yet remained well-mannered. Despite the challenges, he inherited a wonderful comic gift from his father and a passion for music from his mother. This led him to memorize the great works of Mozart and learned to play the piano as well. Also, his musical knowledge of operatic and choral works made him familiar with a wide spectrum of literature.
George Bernard Shaw was called the disciple of his family. First, his uncle tutored him between 1865 and 1871. After afterward, he attended four schools but his educational experiences soured his thoughts about formal schooling. Thus, in 1871, he left school and joined the Dublin firm of land agents, where he served as a junior clerk. Despite having a less formal education, he developed a wide knowledge of art, literature, and music due to his visits to the National Gallery of Ireland and his mother’s influence. Later, in 1876, he moved to London, where he laid the foundation of his writing career for which reading was a prerequisite. Therefore, he secured a reader’s pass for the British Museum Reading Room where he used to spend hours reading and writing.
Some Important Facts of His Life
- He died at the age of ninety-four in London, at Ayot St. Lawrence in 1950.
- The Gingold Theatrical Group, founded in 2006, exhibits his works in New York City that features the humanitarian ideas promoted by him.
- His complete works between 1930 and 1950 in thirty-six volumes.
- He married Charlotte Payne-Townshend in 1898 but the couple had no children.
George started writing at a young age and tasted the fruits of success in his life. In 1878, he tried his hands on drama, using satire on a religious theme. Unfortunately, he abandoned his first attempt and completed his first novel, Immaturity, in 1879. However, it was published after a long time in 1830. Later, he produced two more novels, The Irrational Knot, and, Love among the Artists, in the years, 1880 and 1881 respectively but he did not get any publisher and they got serialized in a magazine. The mid-1880s brought him a fortune for the author; he published two novels and started a career as a critic, too. His efforts proved fruitful as his play, Arms and the Man, a mock-Ruritanian comedy, brought him financial success. Later, in 1902, another work, Man and Superman, earned him real success. His other notable publications include The Perfect Wagnerite, John Bull’s Other Island, Major Barbara, The Doctor’s Dilemma, Antony and Cleopatra, and Pygmalion.
A groundbreaking playwright of all times, George enjoyed significant success. He gained immense popularity on account of his thoughtful ideas and unconventionally tabooed themes and style that inspired and spell bounded the audiences during his times. He tried to destroy the ideals in his initial attempts of writings; his plays directly attacked the assumptions of the audiences. In fact, his plays revolve around religious, social, and political themes. Since he was a free thinker, the social, religious, and political themes presented in one writing may differ in another piece of work. Most of his works deal with contemporary moral problems, which he presented paradoxically, relying on sarcasm, irony, and satire to present his point of view.
Many of his best works such as John Bull’s Other Island, Man and Superman, and Major Barbara present before us the philosophy that socialism could help eradicate the problems generated by capitalism. George never dealt with fanciful subjects in his pieces; rather, he preferred focusing on the biting realities he witnessed in the world around him. Also, his works deal with simple yet complex diction to enhance the unique perspective presented to the readers. The recurring thematic strands in most of the writings are poverty, femininity, gender roles, wealth, and moral corruption. Regarding literary devices, he often turns to metaphors, imagery, and similes to create a unique style.
Some Important Works of George Bernard Shaw
- Best Plays: Some of his best books include Augustus Does His Bit, Augustus Does His Bit, An Unsocial Socialist, Caesar and Cleopatra, A Treatise on Parents and Children, The Devil’s Disciple, Pygmalion and Overruled.
- Other Works: Besides writing plays, he tried his hands on other areas, too. Some of his novels include Love among the Artists, Cashel Byron’s Profession, Immaturity, and The Irrational Knot.
George Bernard Shaw’s Impacts on Future Literature
George Bernard Shaw wrote masterpieces, which brought praiseworthy changes into the world of literature. His distinctive writing approach and unique expressions made him stand amongst the best of his times and our times. Also, he had a significant influence on a diverse range of artists. His influence is so strong that still, many playwrights take pride in copying his style and dialogs.
- “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” (Man and Superman)
- “People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, make them.” (Mrs. Warren’s Profession)
- “You know well I couldn’t bear to live with a low common man after you two, and it’s wicked and cruel of you to insult me by pretending I could.” (Pygmalion)
- “What is life but a series of inspired follies? The difficulty is to find them to do. Never lose a chance: it doesn’t come every day.” (Pygmalion)