Life and Times of George Bernard Shaw

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Background to

Pygmalion

    Authors are influenced by their own life experience Also influenced by their times (history) 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

Pygmalion

and

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)

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