George Bernard Shaw was one of the most influential and important writers of the 20th century. His plays, essays and novels have had a huge influence on literature and his work is still widely read to this day.
George Bernard Shaw lived a fascinating life full of ups and downs. Let’s take a look at 10 interesting facts about George Bernard Shaw.
George Bernard Shaw Facts
1: George Bernard Shaw was born in 1856
George Bernard Shaw was born on July 26, 1856. He was born in Portobello, a working-class part of Dublin, Ireland. He was the youngest child of four and had three older sisters, making him the only son of his parents.
George’s father was an alcoholic who was seen to be one of the failures of his family. His mother also had a fondness for a musician in the area known as George John Lee, and there is speculation among some scholars and historians that he may have actually been George Bernard Shaw’s biological father.
2: When he first moved to London he struggled as a writer
When he was 20 years old, following the death of one of his sisters, George Bernard Shaw moved from Dublin and relocated in London. He would not return to Ireland for another 29 years.
George’s mother had a house in South Kensington which she allowed him to live in and he spent the majority of his 20s being supported by her. An interesting fact about George Bernard Shaw is that he tried and failed to get several novels published and also picked up some office work along the way. During this time, he also became a vegetarian and grew his now-iconic beard.
Shaw’s luck began to pick up towards the end of his 20s when at the age of 29 he had his first romantic involvement with a woman and also had his first two novels published.
3: His most successful play was Pygmalion
George Bernard Shaw wrote a great number of plays during his lifetime but his most famous was Pygmalion, which was first performed in 1913. The play, which is about a man trying to teach a cockney flower girl how to be a lady, is often seen as one of the funniest in the history of English literature and won Shaw many plaudits.
The play was also adapted into a successful film in the late 1930s and was also the basis for the popular musical, My Fair Lady, which was adapted in the 1950s and then became a film in the 1960s.
4: He was very controversial during World War I
George Bernard Shaw was politically active for the majority of his life and would regularly use his platform and status to make points about politics and injustices. His stance on the First World War, however, was met with much criticism and was seen as being incredibly controversial.
At the outbreak of the war, Shaw ceased writing plays and published a pamphlet called ‘Common Sense about the War’. In the pamphlet, he argued that both Germany and the Allied Forces were equally to blame for the war and that more should have been done to reach a peaceful solution. He would regularly give anti-war speeches at demonstrations and conventions.
5: George Bernard Shaw was a member of the Fabian Society and a devout socialist
George Bernard Shaw was politically active for a lot of his life. He had his political awakening when he attended a meeting in Farringdon by Henry George. Soon after this, he discovered the writings of Karl Marx and his life was changed forever, an interesting George Bernard Shaw fact.
A little while later, Shaw became a member of the Fabian Society, a socialist group that puts an emphasis on democratic socialism. Shaw would write various and edit various essays for the group and helped them grow in popularity throughout the 1880s.
6: George Bernard Shaw won an Academy Award
George Bernard Shaw was largely successful at everything he did and he even won himself a screenplay Academy Award in 1938 for an adaptation of his own work Pygmalion, directed by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard.
The film was a financial and critical success and would later go on to be adapted into the iconic musical My Fair Lady, which itself was made into a film in 1964.
7: George Bernard Shaw married only once
For the vast majority of his life, George Bernard Shaw was single. Many believe that this is why the majority of his characters in his plays and novels were also single.
He had various flirtatious relationships with several actresses, including most notably, Ellen Terry, though, it is not known whether anything else ever came of it. He would eventually marry Charlotte Payne-Townsend in 1898. There is a lot of speculation from scholars that Shaw and Townsend’s relationship was purely platonic and that the couple never consummated their relationship.
Regardless, the two would live happily together until Charlotte’s death in 1943, seven years before the death of George himself.
8: George Bernard Shaw Worked as a Critic
As well as being famous for being a playwright, George Bernard Shaw also found fame and acknowledgement for his work as a critic for London newspapers, an interesting fact about George Bernard Shaw.
In the 1880s, he began working as a critic for both music and art but never found the role too fulfilling. This changed when he began writing reviews of the theatre. Shaw’s reviews were often incredibly witty and enjoyable and they helped him gain a great audience. While his reviews were not always favourable with the performers or playwrights, they did earn him some respect in the theatre industry which would become very useful later in life.
9: Shaw’s Corner is a popular attraction today
The house where George Bernard Shaw lived in Ayot St. Lawrence is still open to the public today and is known as Shaw’s corner. The house is very small and has one room where Shaw wrote many of his famous plays. You can also visit the gardens of the house where Shaw’s ashes are spread.
10: George Bernard Shaw died in 1950
George Bernard Shaw managed to live a very long and healthy life. He continued to write into his nineties and was still producing some excellent work.
He died at the age of 94 following an unfortunate accident. He was very active in gardening and one day fell while pruning a tree at his residence. The injuries sustained from the fall eventually led to kidney failure and this was eventually the cause of his death. His ashes, along with those of his wife, were mixed together and spread around the statues in their garden.
George Bernard Shaw lived a fascinating life that has gone on to influence hundreds of other novelists and playwrights around the world. He is one of Ireland’s most popular writers of all time and his work is still being read by millions of people around the world today.
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