Sunday, February 14, 2010


George Bernard Shaw was born to an Irish civil servant in 1856, in Dublin. His dislike for any organizes training kept him safely away from regular education. After working in an estate agent's office for a while he moved to London in 1876, where he established himself as a leading music and theatre critic. His articles were considered highly articulate and admirable. In the eighties and nineties composed many pamphlets and speeches for the Fabian Society (a British intellectual socialist movement, whose purpose is to advance the principles of social democracy via gradual reforms, rather than revolutionary, means) of which he became an active and prominent member. He spoke tirelessly for causes such as gaining equal rights for men and women, alleviating abuses of the working class, rescinding private ownership of productive land, and promoting healthy lifestyles.

Although Shaw began his literary career as a journalist and novelist, his main talent was for drama. He is most well remembered for the 60 plays that he penned. Nearly all his writings deal sternly with prevailing social problems, but have a vein of comedy to make their stark themes more palatable. Shaw examined education, marriage, religion, government, health care and class privilege. He was most angered by what he perceived as the exploitation of the working class, and most of his writings censure that abuse. His earliest dramas were called appropriately Plays Pleasant and Unpleasant (1898). Among these, Widower's Houses and Mrs. Warren's Profession savagely attack social hypocrisy, while in plays such as Arms and the Man and The Man of Destiny the tone is relatively calm but no less critical. Shaw's radical rationalism, his utter disregard of conventions, his keen dialectic interest and verbal wit often turn the stage into a forum of ideas.
Other important plays by Shaw are Caesar and Cleopatra (1901), a historical play filled with allusions to modern times, and Androcles and the Lion (1912), in which he exercised a kind of retrospective history and from modern movements drew deductions for the Christian era. Candida (1898), with social attitudes toward relationships as objects of his satire, and Pygmalion (1912), a witty study of phonetics as well as a clever treatment of middle-class morality and class distinction, proved some of Shaw's greatest successes on the stage.
Shaw married Charlotte Payne-Townshend, a fellow Fabian and they settled in Ayot St. Lawrence in a house now called Shaw's Corner. He is the only person till date, to have been awarded both a Nobel Prize for Literature (1925) and an Oscar (1938), for his contributions to literature and for his work on the film Pygmalion, respectively. Shaw wanted to refuse his Nobel Prize outright because he had no desire for public honors, but accepted it at his wife's behest: she considered it a tribute to Ireland. He did reject the monetary award, requesting it be used to finance translation of Swedish books to English. Shaw's complete works appeared in thirty-six volumes between 1930 and 1950, the year of his death.

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