Wednesday, January 11, 2023

George Bernard Shaw: Irish playwright, critic, polemicist and political activist

George Bernard Shaw was born on July 26, 1856 in Dublin, in a lower-middle class family of Scottish-Protestant ancestry. Although he was best known for drama, he was also proficient in the areas of journalism, music, and literary criticism.

His education was irregular, due to his dislike of any organized training. Shaw developed a wide knowledge of music, art, and literature as a result of his mother’s influence and his visits to the National Gallery of Ireland. The education in artistic style and art history that he received through these visits to National Gallery of Ireland helped Shaw in his later work as an art critic, and the influence of this interest in art can also be seen in his plays.

After working in an estate agent’s office for a while he moved to London as a young man (1876), where he established himself as a leading music and theatre critic in the eighties and nineties and became a prominent member of the Fabian Society.

In 1885, the drama critic William Archer found Shaw steady journalistic work. His early journalism ranged from book reviews in the Pall Mall Gazette (1885–88) and art criticism in the World (1886–89) to brilliant musical columns in the Star (as “Corno di Bassetto”—basset horn) from 1888 to 1890 and in the World (as “G.B.S.”) from 1890 to 1894.

It was during the first decade of the 20th century that Shaw firmly established his reputation as a playwright. Harley Granville-Barker’s company at the Royal Court Theatre presented 14 of Shaw's plays over five years. These included Man and Superman (written in 1902, staged at the Court in 1905), Major Barbara (1905) and The Doctor’s Dilemma (1906). Shaw’s work also became more formally experimental.

He wrote 60 plays, most of which deal with social themes such as marriage, religion, class government and health care.

Shaw married Charlotte Payne-Townshend in 1898, when they were both 41. They renamed their house in Hertfordshire Shaw's Corner and remained together until Charlotte’s death.

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1925. Shaw won his Oscar in 1939 for Best Writing, Screenplay for his role in adapting his own play Pygmalion for the screen. He died on November 2, 1950 in Ayot St. Lawrence, Hertfordshire, England.
George Bernard Shaw: Irish playwright, critic, polemicist and political activist

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