History

Who was George Bernard Shaw?

George Bernard Shaw in the 1880s

George Bernard Shaw in the 1880s

George Bernard Shaw was an Irish playwright and political activist, who used wit and satire to challenge social and political inequalities, over a long and productive life. He was hugely prolific, writing nearly 60 plays, over 250,000 letters and untold numbers of articles and pamphlets. During his lifetime he was one of the most photographed and most quoted men in the world - his words and opinions are still deeply relevant today. 

George Bernard Shaw timeline

  • 1856 - Shaw is born in Dublin on July 26th
  • 1876 - Moves to London
  • 1884 - Joins the newly formed Fabian Society
  • 1892 - First play 'Widowers' Houses' is performed
  • 1898 - Marries Charlotte Payne-Townshend
  • 1906 - Moves to Shaw's Corner
  • 1917 - Visits the Western Front
  • 1926 - Wins the Nobel Prize for Literature
  • 1938 - 'Pygmalion' wins Oscar for Best Screenplay
  • 1950 - Dies aged 94 at Shaw's Corner

"If you are going to tell the truth..."

Shaw wrote many of his plays from the Writing Hut in the garden

Shaw's plays, saturated with socialist thought revolutionised late Victorian and Edwardian Theatre as he brought great inequalities and unfairness of Society into the bright lights of the stage.

 

"...you had better make them laugh."

Shaw knew how to have fun - learning to surf in 1932 (aged 76)

Humour runs through all of Shaw's plays and all of his letters. He remains famous for the wit of his writing and the way that he used laughter to bring home the most serious of ideas and hopes.  

10 of our favourite GBS plays

  • Mrs Warren's Profession (1893)
  • Arms and the Man (1894)
  • Man and Superman (1904)
  • Major Barbara (1906)
  • Androcles and the Lion (1912)
  • Pygmalion (1912)
  • Heartbreak House (1919)
  • Back to Methusulah (1921)
  • St Joan (1923)

Charlotte Shaw

Charlotte and GBS on honeymoon

 Charlotte Payne-Townshend was a suffragist, a translator, a socialist and a patron of the arts - she also happened to be married to George Bernard Shaw from 1898 until her death, aged 86 in 1943. 

A Circle of Friends

J M Barrie, G K Chesterton, Lord Howard de Walden, William Archer and Shaw

From William Morris to Danny Kaye, via T E Lawrence and Virgina Woolf, Shaw was a deeply influencial friend and supporter of poets, painters and playwrights, adventurers, actors and explorers.

 

A writer is born...

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George Bernard Shaw was born on 26th July 1856 in the shabby Dublin suburbs, the youngest son of the unhappily married and down-at-heel grain merchant George Carr Shaw and Lucinca Elizabeth Gurly. 

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