Major Barbara: Biography: George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright, essayist and critic, was born in Dublin in 1856. After an uneven education, he began work in a land agent’s office. He moved to London in 1876 and joined his mother and elder sister who had settled there in 1872.
His political perspective was firmly socialist and was a leading member of the Fabian society. This was formed in 1884 and was influential and instrumental in the later formation of the Labour Party and the London School of Economics. His commitment is made evident in the role he played in this society, such as editing the Fabian Essays in Socialism (1889). These left-wing views also colored his fiction.
He began as a novelist, but could find little or no interest in his work and earned a living as a critic. He subsequently found his voice as a prolific playwright and essayist. His work was accepted and praised in the United States and mainland Europe, but it was not until the early 1900s that he found acclaim in England. In 1903-4, Candida was staged in London and is regarded as marking the beginning of the acceptance of his work. In 1905, Man and Superman, which engages with the evolution of humanity, and Major Barbara, which highlights the failings of religion and capitalism, were performed. Pygmalion was first performed in 1913 and is perhaps his most famous work; it was adapted for film in 1938. It was later translated into the musical, My Fair Lady,in 1956 and the film adaptation was released in 1964.
As a strong critic of World War One, he fell out of favor in England, but re-found success most notably with Saint Joan which was performed in 1923. This examined the forces of religion and morality and has been seen as a contributing factor to his being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925. His complete works appeared between 1930 and 1950 (in 36 volumes). He died in 1950 at the age of 94 from complications after falling from a ladder.