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George Bernard Shaw was an Irish comic dramatist, literary critic, and socialist propagandist who wrote more than 60 plays during his lifetime. He was also the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925.
See the fact file below for more information on the George Bernard Shaw or alternatively, you can download our 24-page George Bernard Shaw worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
Early Life and Education
- George Bernard Shaw was born in Dublin, Ireland on July 26, 1856, the third and youngest child of wholesale grain traders George Carr Shaw and Lucinda Elizabeth Shaw.
- A young George led a distressed childhood as his alcoholic father remained drunk most of the time. It was due to this that Shaw abstained from alcohol throughout his lifetime.
- Shaw’s early education took the form of tutoring sessions provided by his clerical uncle and early on, he explored the worlds of the arts under his mother’s guidance and through the family’s regular visits to the National Gallery of Ireland.
- For his formal education, Shaw attended Wesleyan Connexional School, Dublin’s Central Model School and Dublin English Scientific and Commercial Day School, where he graduated.
- In 1872, Shaw’s mother left her husband and took Shaw’s two sisters to London, and four years later Shaw followed, deciding to become a writer. He did not return to Ireland for almost 30 years.
- Shaw struggled financially, and his mother essentially supported him while he spent time in the British Museum reading room, working on his first novels.
- Shaw turned to literature and began his career by writing theatre, criticism, music, and novels, one of which was the semi-autobiographical, Immaturity.
- Unfortunately, despite the time he spent writing them, most of his novels were dismal failures, widely rejected by publishers. Shaw soon turned his attention to politics and the activities of the British intelligentsia, joining the Fabian Society in 1884.
- The Fabian Society was a socialist group whose goal was nothing short of the transformation of England through a more vibrant political and intellectual base. Shaw became heavily involved and served on its executive committee from 1885 to 1911.
- The year after he joined the Fabian Society, Shaw landed some writing work in the form of book reviews and art, music and theater criticism, and in 1895 he was brought aboard the Saturday Review as its theater critic. It was at this point that Shaw began writing plays of his own.
Shaw, the Dramatist
- Shaw’s first plays were published in volumes titled Plays Unpleasant (containing Widowers’ Houses, The Philanderer, and Mrs. Warren’s Profession) and Plays Pleasant (which had Arms and the Man, Candida, The Man of Destiny, and You Never Can Tell), published in 1892.
- The plays were filled with what would become Shaw’s signature wit, accompanied by healthy doses of social criticisms on existing moral and social problems, which stemmed from his Fabian Society leanings.
- These plays would not go on to be his best remembered, or those for which he had high regard, but they laid the groundwork for the massive career to come.
- Toward the end of the 19th century, beginning with Caesar and Cleopatra (written in 1898), Shaw’s writing came into its own, the product of a mature writer hitting on all points.
- In 1903, Shaw wrote Man and Superman, whose third act, “Don Juan in Hell,” achieved a status larger than the play itself and is often staged as a separate play entirely.
- While Shaw would write plays for the next 50 years, the plays written in the 20 years after Man and Superman would become foundational plays in his oeuvre. Works such as Major Barbara (1905), The Doctor’s Dilemma (1906), Androcles and the Lion (1912), and Saint Joan (1923) all firmly established Shaw as a leading dramatist of his time. In 1925, Shaw was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
- Pygmalion (1912), originally written for English stage actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell, and one of Shaw’s most famous plays, was adapted to the big screen in 1938, earning Shaw an Academy Award for writing the screenplay.
- Pygmalion went on to further fame when it was adapted into a musical and became a hit, first on the Broadway stage (1956), and later on the screen (1964).
- In 1914, Shaw’s popularity declined significantly when he wrote the essay Common Sense about The War, which was considered unpatriotic. However, he was accepted once again with the publication of Saint Joan in 1924.
- For Shaw, the War represented the bankruptcy of the capitalist system and the death throes of European empires, and saw patriotism as the cause of a tragic waste of young lives.
- An author to more than 50 plays, George Bernard Shaw died on November 2, 1950 in Ayot St. Lawrence, Hertfordshire at age 94 while working on yet another play.
George Bernard Shaw Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about George Bernard Shaw across 24 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use George Bernard Shaw worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about George Bernard Shaw who was an Irish comic dramatist, literary critic, and socialist propagandist who wrote more than 60 plays during his lifetime. He was also the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Authors Online
- Library Hunt
- Judge By The Cover
- Plays In Order
- Shaw Says
- George’s Journey
- Say it in Shavian
- Europe is LIT
- Gems of the Emerald Isle
- Female Power
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