George Bernard Shaw quotes
George Bernard Shaw
Birthdate: 26. July 1856
Date of death: 2. November 1950
George Bernard Shaw , known at his insistence simply as Bernard Shaw, was an Irish playwright, critic, polemicist and political activist. His influence on Western theatre, culture and politics extended from the 1880s to his death and beyond. He wrote more than sixty plays, including major works such as Man and Superman , Pygmalion and Saint Joan . With a range incorporating both contemporary satire and historical allegory, Shaw became the leading dramatist of his generation, and in 1925 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Born in Dublin, Shaw moved to London in 1876, where he struggled to establish himself as a writer and novelist, and embarked on a rigorous process of self-education. By the mid-1880s he had become a respected theatre and music critic. Following a political awakening, he joined the gradualist Fabian Society and became its most prominent pamphleteer. Shaw had been writing plays for years before his first public success, Arms and the Man in 1894. Influenced by Henrik Ibsen, he 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's expressed views were often contentious; he promoted eugenics and alphabet reform, and opposed vaccination and organised religion. He courted unpopularity by denouncing both sides in the First World War as equally culpable, and although not a republican, castigated British policy on Ireland in the postwar period. These stances had no lasting effect on his standing or productivity as a dramatist; the inter-war years saw a series of often ambitious plays, which achieved varying degrees of popular success. In 1938 he provided the screenplay for a filmed version of Pygmalion for which he received an Academy Award. His appetite for politics and controversy remained undiminished; by the late 1920s he had largely renounced Fabian Society gradualism and often wrote and spoke favourably of dictatorships of the right and left—he expressed admiration for both Mussolini and Stalin. In the final decade of his life he made fewer public statements, but continued to write prolifically until shortly before his death, aged ninety-four, having refused all state honours, including the Order of Merit in 1946.
Since Shaw's death scholarly and critical opinion about his works has varied, but he has regularly been rated among British dramatists as second only to Shakespeare; analysts recognise his extensive influence on generations of English-language playwrights. The word Shavian has entered the language as encapsulating Shaw's ideas and his means of expressing them.
Quotes George Bernard Shaw
Variant: Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.
„A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.“
1910s, The Doctor's Dilemma (1911)
Variant: A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.
Context: Attention and activity lead to mistakes as well as to successes; but a life spent in making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.
Credited to Shaw in the lead in to the mockumentary C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America (2004) and other recent works, but this or slight variants of it are also sometimes attributed to W. C. Fields, Charlie Chaplin, and Oscar Wilde. It might possibly be derived from Shaw's statement in John Bull's Other Island (1907): "My way of joking is to tell the truth. It's the funniest joke in the world."
Another possibility is that it is derived from Shaw's characteristic of Mark Twain: "He has to put things in such a way as to make people who would otherwise hang him believe he is joking."
If you are going to tell people the truth, you'd better make them laugh. Otherwise, they'll kill you.
If you're going to tell people the truth, you'd better make them laugh. Otherwise, they'll kill you.
„The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.“
1900s, Maxims for Revolutionists (1903)
Source: Man and Superman
Everybody's Political What's What? (ebook, must be borrowed) https://openlibrary.org/books/OL24979564M/Everybody's_political_what's_what (1944), Chapter XXXVII: Creed and Conduct, p. 330
1940s and later
Variant: Progress is impossible without change; and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
Context: Progress is impossible without change; and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything. Creeds, articles, and institutes of religious faith ossify our brains and make change impossible. As such they are nuisances, and in practice have to be mostly ignored.
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Variant: If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.
„People are always blaming circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can't find them, make them.“
Vivie, Act II
Source: 1890s, Mrs. Warren's Profession (1893)
„The liar's punishment is, not in the least that he is not believed, but that he cannot believe anyone else.“
Source: The Quintessence of Ibsenism
The attribution to Shaw comes from Leadership Skills for Managers (2000) by Marlene Caroselli, p. 71. But this quote seems more likely to come from William H. Whyte. The Biggest Problem in Communication Is the Illusion That It Has Taken Place, Quote Investigator, 2014-08-31, 2015-11-09 http://quoteinvestigator.com/2014/08/31/illusion/,
„Success does not consist in never making blunders, but in never making the same one a second time.“
H. W. Shaw (Josh Billings), as quoted in Scientific American, Vol. 31 (1874), p. 121, and in dictionaries of quotations such as Excellent Quotations for Home and School (1890) by Julia B. Hoitt, p. 117 https://archive.org/stream/excellentquotat00hoitgoog/excellentquotat00hoitgoog#page/n138/mode/1up and Many Thoughts of Many Minds: A Treasury of Quotations from the Literature of Every Land and Every Age (1896) by Louis Klopsch, p. 266 https://archive.org/stream/manythoughtsman00klopgoog/manythoughtsman00klopgoog#page/n268/mode/1up.
„Patriotism is, fundamentally, a conviction that a particular country is the best in the world because you were born in it…“
The World (15 November 1893)