George Bernard Shaw quotes

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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. Wikipedia

Works

Pygmalion
Pygmalion
George Bernard Shaw
Man and Superman
Man and Superman
George Bernard Shaw
Saint Joan
Saint Joan
George Bernard Shaw
Major Barbara
Major Barbara
George Bernard Shaw
Back to Methuselah
Back to Methuselah
George Bernard Shaw
The Apple Cart
The Apple Cart
George Bernard Shaw
You Never Can Tell
You Never Can Tell
George Bernard Shaw
Fanny's First Play
Fanny's First Play
George Bernard Shaw
Heartbreak House
Heartbreak House
George Bernard Shaw
Mrs. Warren's Profession
Mrs. Warren's Profession
George Bernard Shaw
The Devil's Disciple
The Devil's Disciple
George Bernard Shaw
Caesar and Cleopatra
Caesar and Cleopatra
George Bernard Shaw
Candida
Candida
George Bernard Shaw
Arms and the Man
Arms and the Man
George Bernard Shaw
Misalliance
George Bernard Shaw
John Bull's Other Island
John Bull's Other Island
George Bernard Shaw
The Dark Lady of the Sonnets
The Dark Lady of the Sonnets
George Bernard Shaw
Overruled
Overruled
George Bernard Shaw
Androcles and the Lion
Androcles and the Lion
George Bernard Shaw
The Doctor's Dilemma
The Doctor's Dilemma
George Bernard Shaw
Three Plays for Puritans
Three Plays for Puritans
George Bernard Shaw

„I have always held the religion of Muhammad in high estimation because of its wonderful vitality. It is the only religion which appears to me to possess that assimilating capability to the changing phase of existence which can make itself appeal to every age.“

—  George Bernard Shaw

Interview (<!-- most likely 17th April -->April 1935), as quoted in The Genuine Islam, Vol. 1 (January 1936). A portion of the statement also appears quoted in The Islamic Review, Vol. 24 (1936) http://books.google.com/books?ei=0_neSrrfD4K0NIPBiaAF&client=safari&id=4MnRAAAAMAAJ&dq=%22try+to+whittle+down+their%22&q=Shaw#search_anchor edited by Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, p. 263
Disputed
Context: I have always held the religion of Muhammad in high estimation because of its wonderful vitality. It is the only religion which appears to me to possess that assimilating capability to the changing phase of existence which can make itself appeal to every age. The world must doubtless attach high value to the predictions of great men like me. I have prophesied about the faith of Muhammad that it would be acceptable to the Europe of tomorrow as it is beginning to be acceptable to the Europe of today. The medieval ecclesiastics, either through ignorance or bigotry, painted Muhammadanism in the darkest colours. They were in fact trained both to hate the man Muhammad and his religion. To them Muhammad was Anti-Christ. I have studied him — the wonderful man, and in my opinion far from being an Anti-Christ he must be called the Saviour of Humanity. I believe that if a man like him were to assume the dictatorship of the modern world he would succeed in solving its problems in a way that would bring it the much-needed peace and happiness. But to proceed, it was in the 19th century that honest thinkers like Carlyle, Goethe and Gibbon perceived intrinsic worth in the religion of Muhammad, and thus there was some change for the better in the European attitude towards Islam. But the Europe of the present century is far advanced. It is beginning to be enamoured of the creed of Muhammad.

„In truth, mankind cannot be saved from without, by schoolmasters or any other sort of masters: it can only be lamed and enslaved by them.“

—  George Bernard Shaw

Is there any hope in education?
1920s, Back to Methuselah (1921)
Context: In truth, mankind cannot be saved from without, by schoolmasters or any other sort of masters: it can only be lamed and enslaved by them. It is said that if you wash a cat it will never again wash itself. This may or may not be true: what is certain is that if you teach a man anything he will never learn it; and if you cure him of a disease he will be unable to cure himself the next time it attacks him.

„A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.“

—  George Bernard Shaw

Everybody's Political What's What (1944), Ch. 30, p. 256
1940s and later

„He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.“

—  George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman

Source: Man and Superman

„Censorship ends in logical completeness when nobody is allowed to read any books except the books that nobody can read.“

—  George Bernard Shaw

As quoted in "Literary Censorship in England" in Current Opinion, Vol. 55, No. 5 (November 1913), p. 378; this has sometimes appeared on the internet in paraphrased form as "Censorship ends in logical completeness when nobody is allowed to read any books except the books that nobody reads"
1910s
Context: Any public committee man who tries to pack the moral cards in the interest of his own notions is guilty of corruption and impertinence. The business of a public library is not to supply the public with the books the committee thinks good for the public, but to supply the public with the books the public wants. … Censorship ends in logical completeness when nobody is allowed to read any books except the books that nobody can read. But as the ratepayer is mostly a coward and a fool in these difficult matters, and the committee is quite sure that it can succeed where the Roman Catholic Church has made its index expurgatorius the laughing-stock of the world, censorship will rage until it reduces itself to absurdity; and even then the best books will be in danger still.

„Life is not meant to be easy, my child but take courage: it can be delightful.“

—  George Bernard Shaw

Pt. V; see also the later phrasing of Malcolm Fraser, "life wasn't meant to be easy"
1920s, Back to Methuselah (1921)

„In an ugly and unhappy world the richest man can purchase nothing but ugliness and unhappiness.“

—  George Bernard Shaw

#110
1900s, Maxims for Revolutionists (1903)

„I am afraid we must make the world honest before we can honestly tell our children that honesty is the best policy.“

—  George Bernard Shaw

"Rungs of the Ladder" http://books.google.com/books?id=HLpRc3rm5b8C, BBC Radio broadcast, 11 July 1932
1930s

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