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BERNARD SHAW

George Bernard Shaw (26 July 1856 – 2 November 1950) was an Irish playwright. Although his first profitable writing was music and literary criticism, in which capacity he wrote many highly articulate pieces of journalism, his main talent was for drama, and he wrote more than 60 plays. Nearly all his writings deal sternly with prevailing social problems, but have a vein of comedy to make their stark themes more palatable. Shaw examined education, marriage, religion, government, health care and class privilege.

He was most angered by what he perceived as the exploitation of the working class, and most of his writings censure that abuse. An ardent socialist, Shaw wrote many brochures and speeches for the Fabian Society. He became an accomplished orator in the furtherance of its causes, which included gaining equal rights for men and women, alleviating abuses of the working class, rescinding private ownership of productive land, and promoting healthy lifestyles.

Shaw married Charlotte Payne-Townshend, a fellow Fabian, whom he survived. They settled in Ayot St. Lawrence in a house now called Shaw's Corner. Shaw died there, aged 94, from chronic problems exacerbated by injuries he incurred by falling.

He is the only person to have been awarded both a Nobel Prize for Literature (1925) and an Oscar (1938), for his contributions to literature and for his work on the film Pygmalion, respectively. Shaw wanted to refuse his Nobel Prize outright because he had no desire for public honors, but accepted it at his wife's behest: she considered it a tribute to Ireland. He did reject the monetary award, requesting it be used to finance translation of Swedish books to English.

Writings

The International Shaw Society provides a detailed chronological listing of Shaw's writings. See also George Bernard Shaw, Unity Theatre. View Shaw's Works for listings of his novels and plays, with links to their electronic texts, if those exist.

Criticism

Shaw became a critic of the arts when, sponsored by William Archer, he joined the reviewing staff of the Pall Mall Gazette in 1885.  There he wrote under the pseudonym "Corno di Bassetto" ("basset horn")—chosen because it sounded European and nobody knew what a corno di bassetto was. In a miscellany of other periodicals, including Dramatic Review (1885–86), Our Corner (1885–86), and the Pall Mall Gazette (1885–88) his byline was "GBS". From 1895 to 1898, Shaw was the drama critic for Frank Harris' Saturday Review, in which position he campaigned brilliantly to displace the artificialities and hypocrisies of the Victorian stage with a theater of actuality and thought. His earnings as a critic made him self-supporting as an author and his articles for the Saturday Review made his name well-known.

He had a very high regard for both Irish stage actor Barry Sullivan's and Johnston Forbes-Robertson's Hamlets, but despised John Barrymore's. Barrymore invited him to see a performance of his celebrated Hamlet, and Shaw graciously accepted, but wrote Barrymore a withering letter in which he all but tore the performance to shreds. Even worse, Shaw had seen the play in the company of Barrymore's then-wife, but did not dare voice his true feelings about the performance aloud to her.

Much of Shaw's music criticism, ranging from short comments to the book-length essay The Perfect Wagnerite, extols the work of the German composer Richard Wagner. Wagner worked 25 years composing Der Ring des Nibelungen, a massive four-part musical dramatization drawn from the Teutonic mythology of gods, giants, dwarves and Rhine maidens; Shaw considered it a work of genius and reviewed it in detail. Beyond the music, he saw it as an allegory of social evolution where workers, driven by "the invisible whip of hunger", seek freedom from their wealthy masters. Wagner did have socialistic sympathies, as Shaw carefully points out, but made no such claim about his opus. Conversely, Shaw disparaged Brahms, deriding A German Requiem by saying "it could only have come from the establishment of a first-class undertaker".Although he found Brahms lacking in intellect, he praised his musicality, saying "...nobody can listen to Brahms' natural utterance of the richest absolute music, especially in his chamber compositions, without rejoicing in his natural gift". In the 1920s, he recanted, calling his earlier animosity towards Brahms "my only mistake". Shaw's writings about music gained great popularity because they were understandable and fair, as well as pleasantly light-hearted and free of affectation, thus contrasting starkly with the dourly pretentious pedantry of most critiques in that era. All of his music critiques have been collected in Shaw's Music. As a drama critic for the Saturday Review, a post he held from 1895 to 1898, Shaw championed Henrik Ibsen whose realistic plays scandalized the Victorian public. His influential Quintessence of Ibsenism was written in 1891.



 BIBLIOGRAPHY

Novels

Immaturity

Cashel Byron's Profession

An Unsocial Socialist

The Irrational Knot

Love Among the Artists

 

Short stories

The Black Girl in Search of God (1932)

The Miraculous Revenge

 

Drama

Plays Unpleasant (published 1898)

Widowers' Houses (1892)

The Philanderer (1898)

Mrs Warren's Profession (1893)

Plays Pleasant (published 1898):

Arms and the Man (1894)

Candida (1894)

The Man of Destiny (1895)

You Never Can Tell (1897)

Three Plays for Puritans (published 1901)

The Devil's Disciple (1897)

Caesar and Cleopatra (1898)

Captain Brassbound's Conversion (1899)

The Admirable Bashville (1901)

Man and Superman (1902–03)

John Bull's Other Island (1904)

How He Lied to Her Husband (1904)

Major Barbara (1905)

The Doctor's Dilemma (1906)

Getting Married (1908)

The Glimpse of Reality (1909)

The Fascinating Foundling (1909)

Press Cuttings (1909)

Misalliance (1910)

Annajanska, the Bolshevik Empress (1917)

The Dark Lady of the Sonnets (1910)

Fanny's First Play (1911)

Overruled (1912)

Androcles and the Lion (1912)

Pygmalion (1912–13)

The Great Catherine (1913)

The Inca of Perusalem (1915)

O'Flaherty VC (1915)

Augustus Does His Bit (1916)

Heartbreak House (1919)

Back to Methuselah (1921)

In the Beginning

The Gospel of the Brothers Barnabas

The Thing Happens

Tragedy of an Elderly Gentleman

As Far as Thought Can Reach

Saint Joan (1923)

The Apple Cart (1929)

Too True To Be Good (1931)

On the Rocks (1933)

The Six of Calais (1934)

The Simpleton of the Unexpected Isles (1934)

The Shewing Up of Blanco Posnet (1909)

The Millionairess (1936)

Geneva (1938)

In Good King Charles's Golden Days (1939)

Buoyant Billions (1947)

 

Essays

Quintessence of Ibsenism (1891)

The Perfect Wagnerite, Commentary on the Ring (1898)

Maxims for Revolutionists (1903)

Preface to Major Barbara (1905)

How to Write a Popular Play (1909)

Treatise on Parents and Children (1910)

Common Sense about the War (1914)

The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism and Capitalism (1928)

Dictators - Let Us Have More of Them (1938)

"Shaw's Music: The Complete Musical Criticism Of Bernard Shaw in Three Volumes" (1955)

"Shaw on Shakespeare: An Anthology of Bernard Shaw's Writings" (1961)

 

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