George Bernard Shaw

George Bernard Shaw was born in Ireland in 1856. He insisted on being known as Bernard Shaw. He was a playwright and critic. Shaw wrote more than sixty plays. His plays covered areas from contemporary satire to historical morality. In 1925 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, and in 1938 he was awarded an Academy Award for the screenplay version of Pygmalion. He refused all state honors including the Order of Merit in 1946.
In addition to being a prolific playwright, he was also the most prolific pamphleteer since Jonathan Swift and the most well-read music critic and best theater critic of his time . He was also one of the literature's great letter writers. He was inwardly shy and generous while at the same time ruthless as a social critic. Shaw was irreverent toward institutions. His plays are dramas as well as comedies.

After attending both Catholic and Protestant day schools, Shaw took a job in the clerical field at the age of 16. From that age he was self-educated. When his parent's marriage ended, Shaw went with his mother and sisters to London in 1876. His mother had become close to George John Lee, who might have been Shaw's biological father, and well known in the London music scene. Their house was filled with music and began Shaw's lifelong love of music.

In 1862 the Shaws and Lee shared a large house in Dublin and a house in the country. Since Shaw was such a shy and sensitive child, he was more comfortable in the country than the city. Lee taught music and voice so when his students brought books, Shaw read them. This gave him a love of literature as well as music.

The next decade was spent in frustration and near poverty. During this time he wrote five novels and only two of them found publishers. He also became a firm and lifelong believer in vegetarianism, a spellbinding orator, and tentatively a playwright. He was a founder of the Fabian Society, which was a middle-class socialist group in 1884. The group aimed at the transformation of English government and society. Through the other founders, he met Charlotte Payne - Townshend whom he married in 1898.

Some of his plays include Widowers' House, in 1893, The Devil's Disciple, in 1896, Caesar and Cleopatra, in 1901, Pygmalion in 1913, Saint Joan in 1923, then about one week before his ninety-fourth birthday, he wrote Why She Would Not in 1950. During his later years, he tended his gardens at Shaw's Corner. At the age of ninety-four, he died of renal failure that was brought on by injuries that occurred while pruning a tree. He was cremated and his ashes were mixed with his wife, Charlotte's. Then they were scattered along footpaths and around the statue of Saint Joan in their garden where the two spent many long afternoons.

Pygmalion

"Pygmalion", a play by George Bernard Shaw was first presented on the stage in 1913. The play is about a young cockney flower girl that is transformed into a lady by the phonetics professor Henry Higgins. Eliza Doolittle wants to improve her life and social standing, so when she overhears two gentlemen challenging each other about the importance of dialect in the social standing of … [Read more...]