Life and Times of George Bernard Shaw


Background to


Authors are influenced by their own life experience

Also influenced by their times


What they experience is often reflected in their writing

However, we cannot assume that everything in an author’s work is a product of her/his own life.

Was born in Ireland in 1856

Moved to London in 1872 (his mother was having an affair)

Worked as a music and literature critic

Became successful as a critic in the 1880s

Was influenced by Norwegian playwright

Henrik Ibsen

Member of the Fabian Society – middle class socialists

Was in favour of women’s right to vote

(gained in 1918)

Was against the hypocrisy of the British class system

Was a pacifist, against World War I

Famous for his many plays, particularly



Saint Joan

Felt that all his writing was didactic (meant to teach and inform)

Strong advocate of phonetic (alphabet sound) reform

He married in 1898

Marriage was celibate and unconsummated he often developed infatuations with his actress, but never slept with them

Was he gay?

Did he secretly hate women?

George V was king

Class structure was quite rigid

High class people often inherited money, but often lived beyond their means

Making money in industry was becoming socially acceptable

A person’s accent helped define their class

With the wrong accent, you could never get ahead in life

People didn’t usually move up in the class system

The working class lived in misery and poverty

Lots of alcoholism, abuse and prostitution

The Housing Question: where to put the working masses (who comprised most of the population?)

A Cockney is originally a person from a specific district of London

Cockney often generalized to be a member of working class Londoners

Had their own dialect (specific accent and vocabulary)