Monday, April 7, 2014

Who Is George Bernard Shaw?

George Bernard Shaw was born in Dublin in 1856. He moved to London as a young man (1876), where he established himself as a leading music and theatre critic in the 1880s and 1890s. In 1895 he was brought aboard the Saturday Review as its theater critic. At was at this point that Shaw began writing plays of his own. At the same time Shaw became a prominent member of the Fabian Society, a leftist political think tank dedicated to non-violent revolution that helped to found the modern day Labour Party of England.
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). The plays were filled with what would become Shaw's signature wit, accompanied by healthy doses of social criticism, which stemmed from his Fabian Society leanings.
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 cylinders. 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 canon. Works such as Major Barbara (1905), The Doctor's Dilemma (1906), Androcles and the Lion (1912) and Saint Joan (1923) all firmly established Shaw both as a front-line (and popular) dramatist of his day and as a writer deeply interested in the issues of his time and of history.
The year 1912 brought what might be Shaw's most famous play, Pygmalion, which was transferred to the big screen in 1938. Shaw was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925 "for his work which is marked by both idealism and humanity, its stimulating satire often being infused with a singular poetic beauty." Shaw later won an Academy Award for the screenplay of the film version of his Pygmalion, which made him the only person to receive both awards. 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).

Shaw died in 1950 at the age of 94 while working on yet another play.

No comments:

Post a Comment