George Bernard Shaw, Life and Works

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Information about George Bernard Shaw, Life and Works

Published on September 16, 2014

Author: AbdelfattahAdel



George Bernard Shaw, Life and Works

Modern Comedies, George Bernard Shaw George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) was a famous Irish dramatist, literary critic, a socialist spokesman, and a leading figure in the 20th century theater. Shaw was a freethinker, a supporter of women's rights and an advocate of equality of income. During his long career, Shaw wrote over 50 plays. His plays were ideological attacks on the evils of capitalism and explorations of moral and social problems. He is the only man so far to have won both the Nobel Prize for Literature - for Saint Joan in 1925 - and an Oscar for Best Screenplay - Pygmalion in 1938. When he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, he accepted the honor but refused the money. Shaw is one of the greatest dramatists. Other than Shakespeare, Shaw is probably the best-known English language playwright. He was a decidedly modern writer, infusing his work with social comment and employing the language which we still use today. His writings are, by nature, subversive. They are filled with people with strong points of view and he highlights the absurdity of how and why people make choices. In addition, Shaw's works provide meaty roles for women. His women are hugely smart, much cleverer than the men, and all the characters are active, not passive. He wrote on the folly of patriotism, the immorality of politicians, the evil of poverty and many other subjects that still occupy us today. Shaw was more than merely the best comic dramatist of his time, for some of his greatest works for the stage have a high seriousness and prose beauty unmatched by his stage contemporaries. His development of a drama of moral passion and of intellectual conflict and debate, his revivifying the comedy of manners, his ventures into symbolic farce and into a theatre of disbelief helped shape the theatre of his time and after. Man and Superman Man and Superman was written in 1903 in four acts and performed in 1905. Although it can be performed as a light comedy of manners, Shaw intended it to be something much deeper than that. The plot is centered on Jack Tanner, author of "The Revolutionist's Handbook and Pocket Companion" and a confirmed bachelor, and the lovely Ann's persistent efforts to make him marry her. Ann is referred to as "The Life Force" and represents Shaw's view that in every culture, it is the women who force the men to marry them, rather than the men taking the initiative. In Man and Superman Shaw expounded his philosophy that humanity is the latest stage in a purposeful and eternal evolutionary movement of the "life force" toward ever-higher life forms. The play's hero, Jack Tanner, is bent on pursuing his own spiritual development in accordance with this philosophy as he flees the determined marital pursuit of the heroine, Ann Whitefield. In the end Jack ruefully allows himself to be captured in marriage by Ann upon recognizing that she herself is

a powerful instrument of the "life force," since the continuation and thus the destiny of the human race lies ultimately in her and other women's reproductive capacity. Pygmalion Pygmalion was written in 1912 and performed in 1913. It is Shaw's best- known play, and comedic masterpiece. It is a humane comedy about love and the English class system. Like his other writings, Pygmalion has a background theme of class struggle. Shaw held that each class worked towards its own ends, and that those from the upper echelons had won the struggle; for him, the working class had failed in promoting their interests effectively, making Shaw highly critical of the democratic system of his day. Pygmalion concerns whether it is possible to pass off a flower-girl at a society ball, by teaching her to speak properly. It is the story of Professor Henry Higgins, a professor of phonetics, who wagers that he can turn a Cockney flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, into the toast of London society merely by teaching her how to speak with an upper-class accent. In the process, he becomes fond of her and attempts to direct her future, but she rejects his domineering ways and marries a young but poor man of the genteel class, Freddy. The original stage play shocked audiences by Eliza's use of a swear word. Humour is drawn from her ability to speak well, but without an understanding of the conversation acceptable to polite society. When asked whether she is walking home, she replies, 'Not bloody likely!' This scene in which Eliza Doolittle appears in high society when she has acquired a correct accent but no notion of polite conversation is one of the funniest in English drama. Pygmalion has been both filmed (1938), winning an Academy Award for Shaw for his screenplay, and adapted into an immensely popular musical, My Fair Lady (1956; motion-picture version, 1964).

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