Who was Bernard Shaw?

Who was Bernard Shaw?

Get to know one of Ireland’s greatest playwrights.

Bernard Shaw was born in 1856 in Dublin. After only a short period of schooling and a period as a clerk in a land-agency office, he moved to London in 1876 to pursue a literary career. Following a false start as a novelist, he found success in journalism, becoming art critic for The World, music critic (under the pseudonym ‘Corno di Bassetto’) for The Star and, from 1895 to 1898, theatre critic for The Saturday Review.

Shaw turned to playwriting with Widowers’ Houses, first performed in 1892. His first commercial success, Arms and the Man, was produced in London and New York in 1894. Encouraged by the success of The Devil’s Disciple in New York in 1897, he gave up most of his work as a critic. Other major works include Man and Superman (1903), Major Barbara (1905), The Doctor’s Dilemma (1906), Pygmalion (1913) and Saint Joan (1923). He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925 and an Oscar for the screenplay of Pygmalion in 1939, and remains the only person to have received both of these accolades.

A passionate socialist, Shaw joined the newly-formed Fabian Society in 1884, formulating the political theories of this group with Sidney Webb, writing and lecturing and eventually sitting on its executive committee. He also served as a borough councillor in St. Pancras from 1897 to 1903.

In 1898 Shaw married Charlotte Payne-Townshend. From 1905 they lived at what was to become known as Shaw’s Corner in Ayot St. Lawrence, Hertfordshire, until Charlotte’s death in 1943 and Shaw’s at the age of 94 in 1950.

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