On This Day In History: George Bernard Shaw Died – On Nov 2, 1950

On November 2, 1950, died George Bernard Shaw.

Bernard Shaw was an Irish playwright, critic and polemicist who strongly influenced Western cultural and political life.

He wrote more than sixty plays, including major works such as Man and Superman (1902), Pygmalion (1912), and Saint Joan (1923). With a range incorporating both contemporary satire and historical allegory, Shaw became the leading dramatist of his generation, and in 1925 he won the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Born in Dublin, Shaw left for London aged twenty to become a writer but struggled to establish himself as a writer and novelist and began a rigorous process of self-education.

He wrote five novels but all of them were rejected.

In 1895, Shaw took a post as music critic on the Star newspaper and became a local councillor in St Pancras, taking a principal role in the Fabian Society and became its most prominent pamphleteer.

Influenced by Henrik Ibsen, a major 19th-century Norwegian playwright, theatre director, and poet, Shaw sought to introduce a new realism into English-language drama, using his plays as vehicles to disseminate his political, social and religious ideas.

By the early twentieth century his reputation as a dramatist was secured with a series of critical and popular successes that included Major Barbara, The Doctor’s Dilemma and Caesar and Cleopatra.

Shaw often expressed views were often contentious; he promoted eugenics and alphabet reform, and opposed vaccination and organized religion.

He became unpopular by denouncing both sides in the First World War as equally culpable. His controversial pamphlet, Common Sense about The War, accused Britain of being as culpable as Germany for the occurrence of the war.

Shaw opposed the war. In 1938 he provided the screenplay for a filmed version of Pygmalion, for which he received an Academy Award.

Shaw once said:

In the final decade of his life he made fewer public statements, but continued to write productively until shortly before his death, aged 94, having refused all state honors, including the Order of Merit in 1946.

Shaw died in 1950. In his will he made a bequest to fund the creation of a phonetic alphabet, but before his death, Shaw had, quite wisely, spent all his money. However, a small amount was made available from the royalties of My Fair Lady, a musical based on Shaw’s Pygmalion.

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