George Bernard Shaw
Many who are not familiar with the arts would most likely ask who George Bernard Shaw is. But unbeknownest to them, they are very familiar with this man whose legacy touches many lives today.
A writer and political activist, his plays made him an international star and brought this man from a lower-middle class family to fame and fortune.
In 1856 a baby boy was born (second child) to a lower middle class civil servant worker and a professional singer in Dublin, Ireland. He was given the name of George Bernard Shaw. Over the years he used "GBS" more often than his given name.
A troubled childhood was what awaited this baby until at the age of 16 when his parents divorced. At that time his mother and older sister left for London while he remained with this father.
School was a struggle for this young man since structure was not what he responded to. The creative mind craved freedom to move and the school systems of the 1800's did not allow for such. To give him credit, he did finish school. At which time, he left Dublin and headed off to London to make his mark on the world.
His first job was as a clerk in a Dublin estate office. Not exactly the ideal creative breeding ground for masterpieces. So in 1876 he went off to London and began his career in writing by way of journalism.
It was during this time that he wrote five books, completing them all before being published. The first one was called Immaturity and was considered auto-biographical. The troubled relationship that he had with his parents became very evident in his work.
An avid reader, his passion for communication had to find an outlet. He found it through politics. The actual soapbox became his medium. An actual soapbox was placed on a streetcorner and used as a stool to proclaim political viewpoints - hence the term used today of being on a soapbox. Getting up on his soapbox helped pull him out of his stagefright and helped him control his stammer.
His active involvement in politics led to him co-founding the Fabian Society whose purpose was to bring Britain closer to socialism. This eventually led to the founding of the London School of Economics and the Labour Party. His activism involved writing pamphelets on the arts and on political topics regarding the arts.
Shaw's journalism career involved being a drama critic and music critic. This experience gained him even more public exposure and refinement of his writing.
His next step in his writing career was to begin writing novels. Playwriting was not too far behind.
Many of his plays were directed at many of the political topics of his day including capitalism and the current welfare system.
As the years went by, the number of plays increased and so did Shaw's popularity. Though it did take a hit during the war years when he was perceived as unpatriotic and close to being treasonous. It was only after the war that his popularity bounced back.
Fame and Fortune
Shaw's life produced a multitude of works for the world to enjoy before his death in 1950. Through a tough childhood and going in and out of public popularity during war times and political changes his works grew and firmly established themselves in culture.
Just a few of his works are:
- The Widower's House
- Fabian Essays on Socialism
- The Devil's Disciple
- Mrs. Warren's Profession
- Love Among the Artist
- On Going to Church
- Press Cuttings
- Beatuy's Duty
- Saint Joan
- Too True to be Good
- Heartbreak House
One of the most well-known of his works has been Pygmalion. Though asked about this title, many might deny knowing it. But that is because it was adapted as My Fair Lady and became a hit Broadway play and motion picture.
Our hats go off to George Bernard Shaw who went against many odds we all face and left a legacy for us all to enjoy and pass on.
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