Photo of George Bernard Shaw


Lifetime: 1856 - 1950 Passed: ≈ 73 years ago


Playwright, Critic, Polemicist, Political activist


Ireland & England

George Bernard Shaw

Born in Dublin, Shaw moved to London in 1876, where he struggled to establish himself as a writer and novelist, and embarked on a rigorous process of self-education. By the mid-1880s he had become a respected theatre and music critic. Following a political awakening, he joined the gradualist Fabian Society and became its most prominent pamphleteer. Shaw had been writing plays for years before his first public success, Arms and the Man in 1894. Influenced by Henrik Ibsen, he sought to introduce a new realism into English-language drama, using his plays as vehicles to disseminate his political, social and religious ideas. By the early twentieth century his reputation as a dramatist was secured with a series of critical and popular successes that included Major Barbara, The Doctor's Dilemma and Caesar and Cleopatra.

Shaw had long supported the principle of Irish Home Rule within the British Empire (which he thought should become the British Commonwealth). In the postwar period, Shaw despaired of the British government's coercive policies towards Ireland, and joined his fellow-writers Hilaire Belloc and G. K. Chesterton in publicly condemning these actions.

Shaw's enthusiasm for the Soviet Union dated to the early 1920s when he had hailed Lenin as "the one really interesting statesman in Europe". Having turned down several chances to visit, in 1931 he joined a party led by Nancy Astor. The carefully managed trip culminated in a lengthy meeting with Stalin, whom Shaw later described as "a Georgian gentleman" with no malice in him.

Shaw did not found a school of dramatists as such, but Crawford asserts that today "we recognise [him] as second only to Shakespeare in the British theatrical tradition ... the proponent of the theater of ideas" who struck a death-blow to 19th-century melodrama. According to Laurence, Shaw pioneered "intelligent" theatre, in which the audience was required to think, thereby paving the way for the new breeds of twentieth-century playwrights from Galsworthy to Pinter.

Books by George Bernard Shaw

Arms and the man Cover image

Arms and the man

Comedy Drama
Play Serbo-Bulgarian War Plays set in Serbia 19th century Fiction set in 1885

It’s 1885, and Raina’s bourgeois Bulgarian family is caught up in the heady patriotism of their war with Serbia. The beautiful and headstrong Raina eagerly awaits her fiancé’s victorious return from battle – but instead meets a soldier who seeks asyl...

Pygmalion Cover image


Comedy Romance
Social criticism Social Class Identity Femininity

Pygmalion is a play by George Bernard Shaw, named after a Greek mythological figure. It was first presented on stage to the public in 1913. In ancient Greek mythology, Pygmalion fell in love with one of his sculptures, which then came to life. The g...

Widowers' Houses Cover image

Widowers' Houses

Fiction Drama
Naturalism Plays Unpleasant

Widowers' Houses was the first play by George Bernard Shaw to be staged. It premièred on 9 December 1892 at the Royalty Theatre, under the auspices of the Independent Theatre Society — a subscription club, formed to escape the Lord Chamberlain's Offi...

The Doctor's Dilemma  Cover image

The Doctor's Dilemma

Comedy Humour
Play Sacrifice Success Humorous Fiction Life Demand Medical Immortality Fun

The Doctor's Dilemma is about Dr. Colenso Ridgeon, who has recently been knighted because of a miraculous new treatment he developed for tuberculosis. As his friends arrive to congratulate him on his success, he is visited by two figures who present...

Don Juan In Hell  Cover image

Don Juan In Hell

Marriage Play Hell Philosophical Supernatural Fiction

Don Juan in Hell is an excerpt (Act 3, Scene 2) from George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman. It is often performed as a stand-alone play. In it, three characters from Mozart’s Don Giovanni (Don Juan, Dona Ana, and the statue of the Commendatore, Dona...

Misalliance  Cover image


Marriage Romantic Escape Politics Socialism Life Fun

Misalliance, a play by George Bernard Shaw, is an ironic examination of the romantic entanglements of a varied group of people gathered at a wealthy man's country home on a summer weekend. Most of the romantic interest centers on the host's daughter,...

Mrs. Warren's Profession  Cover image

Mrs. Warren's Profession

Marriage Play Young Life Relationships Prostitution Hypocrisy

The story centres on the relationship between Mrs Kitty Warren and her daughter, Vivie. Mrs. Warren, a former prostitute and current brothel owner, is described as "on the whole, a genial and fairly presentable old blackguard of a woman." Vivie, an i...

Major Barbara  Cover image

Major Barbara

Family Idealism Comedy Salvation London

Major Barbara is a three-act English play by George Bernard Shaw, written and premiered in 1905 and first published in 1907. The story concerns an idealistic young woman, Barbara Undershaft, who is engaged in helping the poor as a Major in the Salvat...

The Quintessence of Ibsenism  Cover image

The Quintessence of Ibsenism

Social Idealism Analysis Literary Criticism Short Works Communism Illusions Hypocrisy

The Quintessence of Ibsenism is an essay written in 1891 by George Bernard Shaw, providing an extended analysis of the works of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen and of Ibsen's critical reception in England. By extension, Shaw uses this "exposition o...

Overruled Cover image


Rules Comics Romance Moral Act Relationships Fun

Overruled is a comic one-act play written by George Bernard Shaw. In Shaw's words, it is about "how polygamy occurs among quite ordinary people innocent of all unconventional views concerning it." The play concerns two couples who desire to switch pa...

You Never Can Tell Cover image

You Never Can Tell

Marriage Children Comics Romance Satire Modern Fun

You Never Can Tell is an 1897 four-act play by George Bernard Shaw that debuted at the Royalty Theatre. It was published as part of a volume of Shaw's plays entitled Plays Pleasant.

The Devil's Disciple Cover image

The Devil's Disciple

Family Play Rebel Death Reputation Act British

The Devil's Disciple is an 1897 play written by Irish dramatist George Bernard Shaw. The play is Shaw's eighth, and after Richard Mansfield's original 1897 American production it was his first financial success, which helped to affirm his career as a...

Back to Methuselah Cover image

Back to Methuselah

Fantasy Fiction
Adventure Literature Reflection Philosophical Ambition Human Nature Ethics Immortality Scientific Curiosity Consequences

Delve into a timeless journey of evolution, immortality, and the profound nature of humanity in "Back to Methuselah" by George Bernard Shaw, a visionary play that challenges the boundaries of time and human existence. In "Back to Methuselah," George...

Candida Cover image


Marriage Play Love Comics Freedom Passion Life Relationships

In George Bernard Shaw's Candida, a woman must choose between her husband, a self-righteous religious leader, and a young poet who offers her a more passionate and fulfilling life. The play is set in late 19th century London. Candida is a beautiful...

Admirable Bashville Cover image

Admirable Bashville

The Admirable Bashville is a product of the British law of copyright. As that law stands at present, the first person who patches up a stage version of a novel, however worthless and absurd that version may be, and has it read by himself and a few co...

Perfect Wagnerite Cover image

Perfect Wagnerite

The Perfect Wagnerite: A Commentary on the Niblung's Ring (originally published London, 1898) is a philosophical commentary on Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen, by the Irish writer George Bernard Shaw. Shaw offered it to those enthusiastic ad...

Heartbreak House Cover image

Heartbreak House

On the eve of World War I, Ellie Dunn, her father, and her fiancé are invited to one of Hesione Hushabye’s infamous dinner parties. Unfortunately, her fiancé is a scoundrel, her father’s a bumbling prig, and she’s actually in love with Hector, Hesion...

Caesar and Cleopatra Cover image

Caesar and Cleopatra

Caesar and Cleopatra, a play written in 1898 by George Bernard Shaw, was first staged in 1901 and first published with Captain Brassbound's Conversion and The Devil's Disciple in his 1901 collection, Three Plays for Puritans. It was first performed a...

Saint Joan: Preface Cover image

Saint Joan: Preface

Saint Joan is a play by George Bernard Shaw about 15th-century French military figure Joan of Arc. Premiering in 1923, three years after her canonization by the Roman Catholic Church, the play reflects Shaw's belief that the people involved in Joan's...

Fanny's First Play Cover image

Fanny's First Play

Fanny who is the daughter of a Count has written a play. Having hired professional actors and invited some major critics. She is keeping her authorship private and she fears her father will not approve as he hates the vulgarity of modern life. - Summ...