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SHAW BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Shaw did not write a single autobiography, unless the essays in Sixteen Self-Sketches (Constable Standard Edition) can be considered such, but rather autobiographical pieces are to be found scattered around in various places, much of it collected in Stanley Weintraub’s two-volume SHAW: An Autobiography (New York: Weybright and Talley, 1970).
The most recent biography of Shaw is A. M. Gibbs’ single-volume Bernard Shaw: A Life, available at http://www.upf.com/seriesresult.asp?ser=gbshaw and amazon.com.
A four-volume biography (also available in a one-volume paperback edition) authored by Michael Holroyd can be purchased at amazon.com.
There are many other biographies of Shaw, mostly out of print, but an online search will turn up used copies of many of them. An example is Archibald Henderson’s Bernard Shaw: Man of the Century, which was the authorized standard for many years.
A Google search will turn up many online biographical summaries, such as the one at http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/gbshaw.htm and on Wikipedia, and below is a very condensed version of Shaw’s life.
BERNARD SHAW: A BRIEF BIOGRAPHY
Provided by Denis Johnston of The Shaw Festival Theatre
George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
An acclaimed playwright, critic, and social reformer, George
Bernard Shaw (but he hated being called George) was born in 1856 into a family
he described as of shabby genteel lineage. He grew up a Protestant in the
predominantly Catholic city of
At age 20, Shaw followed his mother to
Shaw's first play, Widowers' Houses, was produced in 1892 by J.T. Grein's Independent Theatre, a company founded to produce new plays by new modern playwrights. Widowers' Houses was this company's second production, following the English premiere of Ibsen's Ghosts the year before.
Like many of his peers, Shaw was greatly
impressed with Ibsen's new drama of social realism. In 1891 he wrote an essay
on the subject entitled The Quintessence of Ibsenism. Shaw despised the
sentimental romance being presented to
Although initially considered subversive
because of the subjects he chose to portray, by the turn of the century Shaw
had secured his reputation as a major playwright. His plays were produced on
both sides of the
After the advent of talking films in the 1920s, Shaw's scripts began to find a place in the burgeoning film industry. Although a fan of movies since the early days of silent films, Shaw refused to sell the screen rights to his scripts unless he could retain some control over the final product. In the 1930s and 1940s he adapted several of his plays for film, including How He Lied to Her Husband (1931), Arms and The Man (1932), Pygmalion (1938), Major Barbara (1941), and Caesar and Cleopatra (1945).
Shaw was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for 1925 and donated the prize money to the founding of the Anglo-Swedish Literary Foundation. In the 1930s he travelled around the world with his wife, Charlotte Payne-Townshend, an Irish heiress whom he had married in 1898. He continued to write plays and essays on religion and socialism until his death in 1950.
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