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George Bernard Shaw was born on 26 July 1856, in Dublin, as the son of George Carr Shaw, who was in the wholesale grain trade, and Lucinda Elisabeth Shaw, the daughter of an impoverished landowner. Shaw's childhood was troubled. His father was a drunkard, which made his son a teetotaler. Shaw went to the Wesleyan Connexional School, then moved to a private school near Dalkey, and then to Dublin's Central Model School, ending his formal education at the Dublin English Scientific and Commercial Day School. At the age of 15 he started to work as a junior clerk. In 1876 he went to London, joining his sister and mother. Shaw did not return to Ireland for nearly thirty years. Shaw began his literary career by writing music and theatre criticism, and novels, including the semi-autobiographical Immaturity without much success. In 1884 Shaw joined the Fabian Society, a middle-class socialist group and served on its executive committee from 1885 to 1911.
In 1895 Shaw became a drama critic for the Saturday Review. These articles were later collected in Our Theatres In The Nineties (1932). Shaw also wrote music, art and drama criticism for Dramatic Review (1885-86), Our Corner (1885-86), The Pall Mall Gazette (1885-88), The World (1886-94), and The Star (1888-90) as 'Corno di Basetto'. His music criticism has been collected in Shaw's Music (1981). The Perfect Wagnerite appeared in 1898 andCaesar And Cleopatra in 1901.
In 1898 Shaw married the wealthy Charlotte Payne-Townshend. They settled in 1906 in the Hertfordshire village of Ayot St. Lawrence. Shaw remained with Charlotte until her death, although he was occasionally linked with other women. He carried on a passionate correspondence over the years with Mrs. Patrick Campbell, a widow and actress.
Shaw's early plays including Widower's Houses (1892), which criticized slum landlords were not well received. His 'unpleasant plays', ideological attacks on the evils of capitalism and explorations of moral and social problems, were followed with more entertaining but equally principled productions like Candida and John Bull's Other Island (1904). Major Barbara depicted an officer of the Salvation Army, who learns from her father, a manufacturer of armaments, that money and power can be better weapons against evil than love. Pygmalion was originally written for the actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell, and became later the basis for two films and a musical. Shaw's popularity declined after his essay "Common Sense About the War" (1914), which was considered unpatriotic. With Saint Joan (1924) he was again accepted by the post-war public.
Shaw died at Ayot St. Lawrence, Hertfordshire, on November 2, 1950. During his long career, Shaw wrote over 50 plays.
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