George Bernard Shaw Biography

(Irish playwright Who Won the 1925 Nobel Prize in Literature)

Birthday: July 26, 1856 (Leo)

Born In: Portobello, Dublin, Ireland

George Bernard Shaw was an Irish playwright, literary critic and a fervent socialist who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1925. Born into a lower-middle class family in Dublin to an alcoholic father, George Bernard Shaw had a an irregular education and started working at the age of 15. After serving as a junior clerk for a while, Shaw moved to London to live with his mother and began writing plays and pursue a career in literature. Later, he established himself as an art and theatre critic, and also became a prominent member of the Fabian Society, a highly dominant British socialist organization. Most of his early plays focused on existing social problems and were not well-received by the audience but from 1895 onwards, Shaw’s work started gaining public recognition due to its comic relief. Some of his plays during this period such as ‘Caesar and Cleopatra’, ‘Major Barbara’, ‘The Doctor's Dilemma’, ‘Saint Joan’ and ‘Pygmalion’ received much appreciation and proved to be some of his greatest successes on the stage. Being an outright socialist, Shaw openly expressed his disapproval regarding the First World War, facing criticism for his opinions but after the war, he returned as a dramatist and was honored with the Nobel Prize in Literature for his outstanding contribution. He lived the rest of his life as an international celebrity, continually involved in dramatics until his death. Shaw still remains one of the most significant playwrights in the English language who helped shape the theatre of his time.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Bernard Shaw

Died At Age: 94


Spouse/Ex-: Charlotte Payne-Townshend

father: George Carr Shaw

mother: Lucinda Elizabeth Shaw

siblings: Elinor Agnes Shaw, Lucinda Frances Shaw

Born Country: Ireland

Quotes By George Bernard Shaw Playwrights

Died on: November 2, 1950

place of death: Ayot Saint Lawrence, United Kingdom

Ancestry: English Irish

Cause of Death: Renal Failure

City: Dublin, Ireland

Founder/Co-Founder: London School of Economics and Political Science

More Facts

awards: 1925 - Nobel Prize in Literature
1939 - Academy Award for Best Writing Adapted Screenplay - Pygmalion
1952 - New York Drama Critics' Circle Special Citation - Don Juan in Hell

Childhood & Early Life
George Bernard Shaw was born on July 26, 1856, in Dublin, Ireland, to George Carr Shaw, a civil servant, and Lucinda Elizabeth Gurly Shaw, an aspiring singer and music teacher. He was the third and youngest child in the family with two elder sisters.
He had an irregular education because he disliked any organized training. After receiving early tuitions from his clerical uncle, he attended several local schools but eventually ended his formal education. Subsequently, he developed an interest towards art and literature due to his mother’s influence.
In 1872, his mother left her husband and moved to London to live with her music teacher and longtime lover George Vandeleur Lee. She also took bother her daughters with her. Meanwhile George Bernard Shaw stayed back in Dublin with his father and worked as a land agent in a estate office. But, he was not content with his job.
In 1876, Shaw moved to London with her mother and decided to pursue a career in writing and journalism.
For the next few years, Shaw spent most of his time in the British Museum reading room and wrote several novels but was unable to get them published. During this period, he struggled financially and suffered constant embarrassment while living off of his mother and sister.
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While failing in the attempt to become a novelist, George Bernard Shaw gravitated towards progressive politics and became a socialist spokesperson. Thereafter, he embraced socialism and joined the ‘Fabian Society’, a socialist political organization dedicated to transforming the English society.
Shaw lectured for the Fabian Society and wrote pamphlets on the progressive arts, later getting involved in most of its activities. Meanwhile, in 1885, he found steady journalism work as a book reviewer as well as an art critic.
In 1895, he was appointed to the Saturday Review as theatre critic, where he served until his resignation due to illness in 1898. In the meantime, he wrote several plays but failed to convince the theatre managers to produce them.
In 1904, H. G. Barker and J.E. Vedrenne managed a successful production of Shaw's play titled ‘Candida’ at the Royal Court Theatre in London. Its success prompted them to form a partnership with Shaw, who wrote several plays for them over the next few years, resulting in a series of brilliant productions.
By 1910, Shaw had established himself as a playwright through his marvelous works including ‘John Bull’s Other Island’ (1904), ‘Major Barbara’ (1905), and ‘The Doctor’s Dilemma’ (1906).
In 1914, at the outbreak of World War I, Shaw’s popularity declined considerably after he published an essay titled ‘Common Sense about The War’, describing the war as a tragic waste of young lives under the guise of patriotism. The essay met with much criticism and proved to be a disaster for his social stature.
After the war, Shaw re-established himself as a dramatist and in 1921, he wrote a series of five plays under the collective title ‘Back to Methuselah’ based on the human evolution. In 1923, he followed it with the publication of another play titled ‘Saint Joan’.
During the next decade, he continued to work as a playwright and some of his dramas include ‘The Apple Cart’ (1929), ‘Too True to Be Good’ (1931), and ‘On the Rocks’ (1933).
Following the Second World War, he produced several more plays such as ‘Farfetched Fables’ (1948), ‘Shakes Versus Shav’ (1949), and ‘Why She Would Not’ (1950). A dramatist throughout his life, Shaw continued to work until his death.
Major Works
In 1912-13, Shaw came up with his most popular play, a comical masterpiece titled ‘Pygmalion’, a gentle comedy about love and the English class system. Pygmalion was a great success and achieved further fame when it was later made into a film, in 1938, for which Shaw wrote the screenplay, winning an Oscar for his work. The play was also adapted into an immensely famous musical titled ‘My Fair Lady’ (1956).
Awards & Achievements
In 1925, George Bernard Shaw was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for his pioneering contribution to the field.
In 1938, Shaw shared an Academy Award for the Best Adapted Screenplay category for the film adaptation of his most popular play ‘Pygmalion’ (1912-13).
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1898, George Bernard Shaw married Charlotte Payne-Townshend, an Anglo-Irish heiress and a feminist who joined the Fabian Society. The marriage was a happy one although the couple had no children together.
Shaw died on November 2, 1950, at his home in Ayot St. Lawrence in Hertfordshire, England, due to renal injuries which he incurred upon falling off a ladder while trimming a tree. He was cremated at the Golders Green Crematorium.

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