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George Bernard Shaw

Updated on April 4, 2009
RGraf profile image

Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.

George Bernard Shaw by pbeens on flickr
George Bernard Shaw by pbeens on flickr

Who?

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.

Birthplace by John and Keturah on flickr
Birthplace by John and Keturah on flickr

Humble Origins

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.

by joycec84 on flickr
by joycec84 on flickr

Writing Career

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
  • Candida
  • Mrs. Warren's Profession
  • Love Among the Artist
  • On Going to Church
  • Press Cuttings
  • Beatuy's Duty
  • Pygmalion
  • Saint Joan
  • Too True to be Good
  • Geneva
  • 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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    • RGraf profile image
      Author

      Rebecca Graf 8 years ago from Wisconsin

      Thank you all for stopping by. I love "My fair Lady". That was the movie that introduced me to this great man.

    • marisuewrites profile image

      marisuewrites 8 years ago from USA

      I love biographies, this is very good, a nice tribute to the man...=))

    • profile image

      Feline Prophet 8 years ago

      How did I miss this one? To think if he'd never written Pygmalion we'd never have had the chance to see 'My Fair Lady'!

    • SweetiePie profile image

      SweetiePie 8 years ago from Southern California, USA

      Very interesting overview about Shaw. I have not thought about him much, but thanks for the information about him.

    • profile image

      Eddie Perkins 8 years ago

      Rebecca,

      This if very inspirational.  Maybe I will get a soap box.

      You are an inspiration.  Hope all is well with you and yours.  Praying for you, your family and church.

      Sending Blessings ~ eddie

    • eovery profile image

      eovery 8 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa

      Thanks for the beautiful hub.

      Keep on hubbing!

    • LondonGirl profile image

      LondonGirl 8 years ago from London

      Great hub - I, too, have always like GBS.

    • RGraf profile image
      Author

      Rebecca Graf 8 years ago from Wisconsin

      Thank you - I love it, too.

    • Elena. profile image

      Elena. 8 years ago from Madrid

      "Pygmalion" continues to be one of my favorite plays :-) Very nice tribute to GBS!

    • RGraf profile image
      Author

      Rebecca Graf 8 years ago from Wisconsin

      Thank you. He did a lot more than I had realized.

    • profile image

      TheSandman 8 years ago

      Vey nice piece, I have always been a GBS fan