George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
George Bernard Shaw was born in Dublin on 26th, July 1856 at 3 (now 33) Synge Street, Dublin. He was the son of George Carr Shaw and Lucinda Elizabeth Shaw. Shaw's formal education finished early and he started work as a junior clerk at the age of fifteen. Find out more about The George Bernard Shaw Birthplace!
Shaw began his literary career by writing music and theatre criticism. He later became a leading figure in 20th century theatre. His well-known works include "Major Barbara", "John Bulls Other Island" . His play "Pygmalion" was adapted for the screen and stared Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller. The film was a financial and critical success, and won an Oscar for best screenplay and three more nominations. The screenplay was later adapted into the 1956 theatrical musical My Fair Lady, which in turn led to the 1964 film of the same name. During his long career he wrote over 50 plays.
In 1876 Shaw left Dublin to join his mother and Lee in London, where several years of hack journalism and five novels earned him next to nothing. Attracted to socialism, he joined the newly formed Fabian Society in 1884, where with typical doggedness, he overcame his shyness to become a brilliant public speaker as well as the society's principal pamphleteer. He supplemented his income by becoming a reviewer of art, drama and music for several London journals, and in 1892 turned his hand to playwriting. His first few dramas, including "Widowers'Houses", "Mrs. Warren's Profession", "Arms and the Man" and "Caesar and Cleopatra", met with little success and his first real earnings from the stage only came in 1897 when the opening run of "The Devil's Disciple" in New York brought him £2,000 in royalties
In 1904, Shaw's only play on an Irish theme, "John Bull's Other Island", was premiered at the Royal Court Theatre. A comedy which inverted the usual traditions of stage Irishism, it amused Edward VII so much that he broke his chair laughing. "Man and Superman", staged in 1905, dramatised his concept of creative evolution and the Life Force; "Major Barbara" (1905) set up a confrontation between idealism and plutocracy and "The Doctor's Dilemma" (1906) was Shaw's revenge for his mistreatment by doctors in the past. Among the shorter plays which followed was "The Shrewing-up of Blanco Posnet", which was banned in Britain for blasphemy and heriocally produced in 1909 at Dublin's Abbey Theatre, where it was reviewed by James Joyce. Shaw did not see the theatre merely as popular entertainment but as an arena of instruction. The themes-prostitution, religion, economics, war and politics-reflected social realities; the wit and eloquence which characterised them gave style to the substance and sugar to the pill. Many of the plays were published with long and entertaining prefaces.
He spent his later years lecturing, broadcasting and editing numerous collected works. With Yeats, he founded the Irish Academy of Letters in 1936 and he was made a Freeman of the city of Dublin in 1946. At his death in 1950, his house was given to the National Trust and a considerable bequest went to the National Gallery of Ireland in recognition of the education it had given him.
Check out the LIterary Guide to Dublin!