Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw, was born in Dublin on July 26, 1856. Beginning his career as a writer in London, Shaw wrote extensively in his initial years to make ends meet. After his novels failed repeatedly on being rejected by publishers, Shaw turned to writing plays.
As his plays went on to become huge successes, his satirical, witty style established him not only as a genius playwright, but also as a social commentator of his time. Shaw was also the first writer to win both the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925 and the Academy Award for the Best Adapted Screenplay of his play, Pygmalion, in 1938.
Out of the 60 plays George Bernard Shaw wrote during his lifetime, here’s a glimpse at five of them one must not miss out on.
Pygmalion: G. B. Shaw’s most popular play, Pygmalion, premiered on stage on October 16, 1913. It is based on the well-known Greek mythological character by the same name. It has been adapted several times through the years not only on stage but also on screen, with My Fair Lady winning an Academy Award for best screenplay.
Saint Joan: G. B. Shaw’s play on the 15th century French ‘heroine’, Joan of Arc, premiered in 1923. After Joan of Arc was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church in 1920, Shaw studied the documents and transcripts of her life and trial to write a play, which he said, maintained his drama “at the level of high tragedy”.
Heartbreak House: Or Heartbreak House: A Fantasia in the Russian Manner on English Themes, was written in 1919 and premiered at the Garrick Theatre in UK’s Westminster in November 1920. In this play, Shaw adapts famous Russian writer, Anton Chekhov’s style to comment on society and the changing faces of people around us.
Candida: Written in 1894 and first published in 1898, Candida is a comedy that featured as a part of G. B. Shaw’s Plays Pleasant. The play that questioned the Victorian ideas of marriage, love and companionship became so popular that in 1904 the phenomenon was termed as “Candidamania”.
Man and Superman: The four act play written by Shaw in 1903 premiered on stage in May 1905. However, its first show omitted the third act of the play. Consequently, the third act — ‘Don Juan in Hell’, which is also the longest act in the play, has gone on to be performed as a separate piece by itself.
Tell us your favourite work of George Bernard Shaw, as we celebrate the 161st birth anniversary of one of the pioneers of the Drama of Ideas.