George Bernard Shaw

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Early life and career

To cite this document, always state the source as shown above. George Bernard Shaw died on November 2, Back to top Back To Top Takes users back to the top of the page. See the list of all Nobel Prizes, awarded for "the greatest benefit to mankind. Even mother's milk nourishes murderers as well as heroes. Disputed [ edit ] If you're going to tell people the truth, you better make them laugh; otherwise they'll kill you. Credited to Shaw in the lead in to the mockumentary C. The Confederate States of America and other recent works, but this or slight variants of it are also sometimes attributed to W.

Fields , Charlie Chaplin , and Oscar Wilde. It's the funniest joke in the world. If you are going to tell people the truth, you'd better make them laugh. Otherwise, they'll kill you. If you're going to tell people the truth, you'd better make them laugh. A combination of my beauty and your brains would startle the world," but he replied: Madam, would you sleep with me for a million pounds? My goodness, Well, I'd certainly think about it Shaw: Would you sleep with me for a pound?

What kind of woman do you think I am?! Madam, we've already established that. Now we are haggling over the price. Similar remarks are also attributed to Winston Churchill , Groucho Marx and to Mark Twain I have always held the religion of Muhammad in high estimation because of its wonderful vitality. It is the only religion which appears to me to possess that assimilating capability to the changing phase of existence which can make itself appeal to every age. The world must doubtless attach high value to the predictions of great men like me.

I have prophesied about the faith of Muhammad that it would be acceptable to the Europe of tomorrow as it is beginning to be acceptable to the Europe of today. The medieval ecclesiastics, either through ignorance or bigotry, painted Muhammadanism in the darkest colours. They were in fact trained both to hate the man Muhammad and his religion. To them Muhammad was Anti-Christ. I have studied him — the wonderful man, and in my opinion far from being an Anti-Christ he must be called the Saviour of Humanity.

By the time of Shaw's birth, his mother had become close to George John Lee, a flamboyant figure well known in Dublin's musical circles. Shaw retained a lifelong obsession that Lee might have been his biological father; [6] there is no consensus among Shavian scholars on the likelihood of this. Lee was a conductor and teacher of singing; Bessie had a fine mezzo-soprano voice and was much influenced by Lee's unorthodox method of vocal production.

The Shaws' house was often filled with music, with frequent gatherings of singers and players. In , Lee and the Shaws agreed to share a house, No. Lee's students often gave him books, which the young Shaw read avidly; [13] thus, as well as gaining a thorough musical knowledge of choral and operatic works, he became familiar with a wide spectrum of literature. Between and , Shaw attended four schools, all of which he hated.

In June , Lee left Dublin for London and never returned. A fortnight later, Bessie followed him; the two girls joined her. Early in Shaw learned from his mother that Agnes was dying of tuberculosis. He resigned from the land agents, and in March travelled to England to join his mother and Lucy at Agnes's funeral. He never again lived in Ireland, and did not visit it for twenty-nine years.

Initially, Shaw refused to seek clerical employment in London. His mother allowed him to live free of charge in her house in South Kensington , but he nevertheless needed an income. He had abandoned a teenage ambition to become a painter, and had no thought yet of writing for a living, but Lee found a little work for him, ghost-writing a musical column printed under Lee's name in a satirical weekly, The Hornet.

Eventually Shaw was driven to applying for office jobs. In the interim he secured a reader's pass for the British Museum Reading Room the forerunner of the British Library and spent most weekdays there, reading and writing. It was abandoned unfinished, as was his first try at a novel. His first completed novel, Immaturity , was too grim to appeal to publishers and did not appear until the s. Nonetheless, when the Edison firm merged with the rival Bell Telephone Company, Shaw chose not to seek a place in the new organisation.

For the next four years Shaw made a negligible income from writing, and was subsidised by his mother. The Irrational Knot and Love Among the Artists , but neither found a publisher; each was serialised a few years later in the socialist magazine Our Corner. In Shaw began attending meetings of the Zetetical Society, whose objective was to "search for truth in all matters affecting the interests of the human race". Despite difference of style and temperament, the two quickly recognised qualities in each other and developed a lifelong friendship. We had everything to learn from one another and brains enough to do it".

Shaw's next attempt at drama was a one-act playlet in French, Un Petit Drame , written in but not published in his lifetime. He was not impressed by the SDF's founder, H. Hyndman , whom he found autocratic, ill-tempered and lacking leadership qualities. Shaw doubted the ability of the SDF to harness the working classes into an effective radical movement and did not join it—he preferred, he said, to work with his intellectual equals. Shaw, Fabian Tract No. From to Shaw attended the fortnightly meetings of the British Economic Association ; it was, Holroyd observes, "the closest Shaw had ever come to university education.

Throughout the s the Fabian Society remained small, its message of moderation frequently unheard among more strident voices. The second of these, "Transition", details the case for gradualism and permeation, asserting that "the necessity for cautious and gradual change must be obvious to everyone".

The mids marked a turning point in Shaw's life, both personally and professionally: Shaw's sex life has caused much speculation and debate among his biographers, but there is a consensus that the relationship with Patterson was one of his few non-platonic romantic liaisons. The published novels, neither commercially successful, were his two final efforts in this genre: Cashel Byron's Profession written in —83, and An Unsocial Socialist , begun and finished in The latter was published as a serial in ToDay magazine in , although it did not appear in book form until Cashel Byron appeared in magazine and book form in In and , through the influence of Archer, Shaw was engaged to write book and music criticism for London papers.

When Archer resigned as art critic of The World in he secured the succession for Shaw. Of Shaw's various reviewing activities in the s and s it was as a music critic that he was best known. In the version of the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians , Robert Anderson writes, "Shaw's collected writings on music stand alone in their mastery of English and compulsive readability.

As at The World , he used the by-line "G.


By this time he had embarked in earnest on a career as a playwright: After using the plot of the aborted collaboration with Archer to complete Widowers' Houses it was staged twice in London, in December , Shaw continued writing plays. At first he made slow progress; The Philanderer , written in but not published until , had to wait until for a stage production. Similarly, Mrs Warren's Profession was written five years before publication and nine years before reaching the stage. Shaw's first play to bring him financial success was Arms and the Man , a mock- Ruritanian comedy satirising conventions of love, military honour and class.

The success of Arms and the Man was not immediately replicated. Candida , which presented a young woman making a conventional romantic choice for unconventional reasons, received a single performance in South Shields in ; [76] in a playlet about Napoleon called The Man of Destiny had a single staging at Croydon. In January , as a Fabian delegate, Shaw attended the Bradford conference which led to the foundation of the Independent Labour Party.

To Your Tents, O Israel excoriated the government for ignoring social issues and concentrating solely on Irish Home Rule , a matter Shaw declared of no relevance to socialism. Webb, who chaired the board of trustees appointed to supervise the legacy, proposed to use most of it to found a school of economics and politics. Shaw demurred; he thought such a venture was contrary to the specified purpose of the legacy. By the later s Shaw's political activities lessened as he concentrated on making his name as a dramatist. At least initially, Shaw took to his municipal responsibilities seriously; [n 16] when London government was reformed in and the St Pancras vestry became the Metropolitan Borough of St Pancras , he was elected to the newly formed borough council.

George Bernard Shaw: Theatre-goers should not laugh out loud

In , as a result of overwork, Shaw's health broke down. The previous year she had proposed that she and Shaw should marry. In the view of the biographer and critic St John Ervine , "their life together was entirely felicitous". They retained a London flat in the Adelphi and later at Whitehall Court.

During the first decade of the twentieth century, Shaw secured a firm reputation as a playwright. Over the next five years they staged fourteen of Shaw's plays. It was uncongenial to the whole spirit of the neo-Gaelic movement, which is bent on creating a new Ireland after its own ideal, whereas my play is a very uncompromising presentment of the real old Ireland. Synge 's death in Man and Superman , completed in , was a success both at the Royal Court in and in Robert Loraine 's New York production in the same year.

Among the other Shaw works presented by Vedrenne and Granville-Barker were Major Barbara , depicting the contrasting morality of arms manufacturers and the Salvation Army ; [] The Doctor's Dilemma , a mostly serious piece about professional ethics; [] and Caesar and Cleopatra , Shaw's counterblast to Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra , seen in New York in and in London the following year.

Now prosperous and established, Shaw experimented with unorthodox theatrical forms described by his biographer Stanley Weintraub as "discussion drama" and "serious farce ". Blanco Posnet was banned on religious grounds by the Lord Chamberlain the official theatre censor in England , and was produced instead in Dublin; it filled the Abbey Theatre to capacity.

George Bernard Shaw

Androcles and the Lion , a less heretical study of true and false religious attitudes than Blanco Posnet , ran for eight weeks in September and October Hence arose an urgent demand on the part of the managers of Vienna and Berlin that I should have my plays performed by them first. There had earlier been a romantic liaison between Shaw and Campbell that caused Charlotte Shaw considerable concern, but by the time of the London premiere it had ended.

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His co-star then toured with the piece in the US. In , when the Boer War began, Shaw wished the Fabians to take a neutral stance on what he deemed, like Home Rule , to be a "non-Socialist" issue.

George Bernard Shaw - Wikiquote

Others, including the future Labour prime minister Ramsay MacDonald , wanted unequivocal opposition, and resigned from the society when it followed Shaw. As the new century began, Shaw became increasingly disillusioned by the limited impact of the Fabians on national politics. After an eccentric campaign, which Holroyd characterises as "[making] absolutely certain of not getting in", he was duly defeated.

It was Shaw's final foray into electoral politics. Shaw viewed this outcome with scepticism; he had a low opinion of the new prime minister, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman , and saw the Labour members as inconsequential: In the years after the election, Shaw felt that the Fabians needed fresh leadership, and saw this in the form of his fellow-writer H.

Wells , who had joined the society in February He later wondered whether the Old Gang should have given way to Wells some years earlier: He became a founding director, publicist, and in due course a contributor, mostly anonymously.

5 Frases de George Bernard Shaw

Common Sense About the War Despite his errant reputation, Shaw's propagandist skills were recognised by the British authorities, and early in he was invited by Field Marshal Haig to visit the Western Front battlefields. Shaw's 10,word report, which emphasised the human aspects of the soldier's life, was well received, and he became less of a lone voice. In April he joined the national consensus in welcoming America's entry into the war: Three short plays by Shaw were premiered during the war.

The Inca of Perusalem , written in , encountered problems with the censor for burlesquing not only the enemy but the British military command; it was performed in at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. Shaw had long supported the principle of Irish Home Rule within the British Empire which he thought should become the British Commonwealth. After its suppression by British forces, he expressed horror at the summary execution of the rebel leaders, but continued to believe in some form of Anglo-Irish union.

In How to Settle the Irish Question , he envisaged a federal arrangement, with national and imperial parliaments. In the postwar period, Shaw despaired of the British government's coercive policies towards Ireland, [] and joined his fellow-writers Hilaire Belloc and G. Chesterton in publicly condemning these actions. I rejoice in his memory, and will not be so disloyal to it as to snivel over his valiant death". Shaw's first major work to appear after the war was Heartbreak House , written in —17 and performed in It was produced on Broadway in November, and was coolly received; according to The Times: Shaw's largest-scale theatrical work was Back to Methuselah , written in —20 and staged in Weintraub describes it as "Shaw's attempt to fend off 'the bottomless pit of an utterly discouraging pessimism'".

He was now sixty-seven, and expected to write no more plays. This mood was short-lived.

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  5. In Joan of Arc was proclaimed a saint by Pope Benedict XV ; Shaw had long found Joan an interesting historical character, and his view of her veered between "half-witted genius" and someone of "exceptional sanity". It was enthusiastically received there, [] and at its London premiere the following March. The citation for the literature prize for praised his work as " After Saint Joan , it was five years before Shaw wrote a play.

    From , he spent four years writing what he described as his "magnum opus", a political treatise entitled The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism and Capitalism.

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    He described the League as "a school for the new international statesmanship as against the old Foreign Office diplomacy", but thought that it had not yet become the "Federation of the World". Shaw returned to the theatre with what he called "a political extravaganza", The Apple Cart , written in late It was, in Ervine's view, unexpectedly popular, taking a conservative, monarchist, anti-democratic line that appealed to contemporary audiences. During the s Shaw began to lose faith in the idea that society could be changed through Fabian gradualism, and became increasingly fascinated with dictatorial methods.

    In he had welcomed Mussolini 's accession to power in Italy, observing that amid the "indiscipline and muddle and Parliamentary deadlock", Mussolini was "the right kind of tyrant". Shaw's enthusiasm for the Soviet Union dated to the early s when he had hailed Lenin as "the one really interesting statesman in Europe". Shaw's admiration for Mussolini and Stalin demonstrated his growing belief that dictatorship was the only viable political arrangement.

    When the Nazi Party came to power in Germany in January , Shaw described Hitler as "a very remarkable man, a very able man", [] and professed himself proud to be the only writer in England who was "scrupulously polite and just to Hitler". Shaw's first play of the decade was Too True to be Good , written in and premiered in Boston in February The reception was unenthusiastic.

    Brooks Atkinson of The New York Times commenting that Shaw had "yielded to the impulse to write without having a subject", judged the play a "rambling and indifferently tedious conversation". The correspondent of The New York Herald Tribune said that most of the play was "discourse, unbelievably long lectures" and that although the audience enjoyed the play it was bewildered by it.

    During the decade Shaw travelled widely and frequently. Most of his journeys were with Charlotte; she enjoyed voyages on ocean liners, and he found peace to write during the long spells at sea. He had earlier refused to go to "that awful country, that uncivilized place", "unfit to govern itself Despite his contempt for Hollywood and its aesthetic values, Shaw was enthusiastic about cinema, and in the middle of the decade wrote screenplays for prospective film versions of Pygmalion and Saint Joan. Shaw was determined that Hollywood should have nothing to do with the film, but was powerless to prevent it from winning one Academy Award "Oscar" ; he described his award for "best-written screenplay" as an insult, coming from such a source.

    The first, a fantasy reworking of Shakespeare, made little impression, but the second, a satire on European dictators, attracted more notice, much of it unfavourable. Towards the end of the decade, both Shaws began to suffer ill health. Charlotte was increasingly incapacitated by Paget's disease of bone , and he developed pernicious anaemia.

    His treatment, involving injections of concentrated animal liver, was successful, but this breach of his vegetarian creed distressed him and brought down condemnation from militant vegetarians. Two touring companies took his plays all round Britain. St John Ervine on Shaw, [2]. Following the outbreak of war on 3 September and the rapid conquest of Poland , Shaw was accused of defeatism when, in a New Statesman article, he declared the war over and demanded a peace conference.

    Even there they were not immune from enemy air raids, and stayed on occasion with Nancy Astor at her country house, Cliveden. Her condition deteriorated, and she died in September. Shaw's final political treatise, Everybody's Political What's What , was published in Holroyd describes this as "a rambling narrative Pascal was given a third opportunity to film Shaw's work with Caesar and Cleopatra It cost three times its original budget and was rated "the biggest financial failure in the history of British cinema".

    Shaw thought its lavishness nullified the drama, and he considered the film "a poor imitation of Cecil B. In , the year of Shaw's ninetieth birthday, he accepted the freedom of Dublin and became the first honorary freeman of the borough of St Pancras, London. He declined, believing that an author's merit could only be determined by the posthumous verdict of history. It was widely praised; a reviewer in the American Journal of Public Health considered it essential reading for any student of the American criminal justice system.

    Shaw continued to write into his nineties. His last plays were Buoyant Billions , his final full-length work; Farfetched Fables a set of six short plays revisiting several of his earlier themes such as evolution; a comic play for puppets, Shakes versus Shav , a ten-minute piece in which Shakespeare and Shaw trade insults; [] and Why She Would Not , which Shaw described as "a little comedy", written in one week shortly before his ninety-fourth birthday. During his later years, Shaw enjoyed tending the gardens at Shaw's Corner. He died at the age of ninety-four of renal failure precipitated by injuries incurred when falling while pruning a tree.

    His ashes, mixed with those of Charlotte, were scattered along footpaths and around the statue of Saint Joan in their garden.

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