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George Bernard Shaw 1856 - 1950
critic, and intellectual George Bernard Shaw was left emotionally
scarred by a Dublin childhood spent largely ignored by his parents.
The legacy of this melancholy upbringing left Shaw painfully shy
and nearly petrified of public speaking. It is a testament to Shaw's
brilliance that he eventually became known as one of the finest
and most powerful orators of his day.
A harsh critic of what he considered
the frothy, featherweight content of British drama during his era,
Shaw finally succeeded after many years of toil with his 1904 production
of John Bull's Other Island, the first of many great dramatic
successes. An avowed socialist, Shaw used his pen to dissect the
economic, moral, and intellectual issues of the day, having little
patience for simple-minded entertainment and frivolous pastimes.
In addition to being a dazzling
playwright, Shaw was also an accomplished music, art, and drama
critic, as well as an accomplished speaker. Eventually Shaw gave
over 1, 000 lectures, a triumph for a sensitive young man with a
dread of public speaking.
Shaw often commented on the political
turmoil of the day, creating a stir in England by first opposing
World War I (he was a pacifist) and then criticizing the British
government's treatment of the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising.
The master of a rather ascetic lifestyle (he was a teetotaller,
vegetarian, and possibly celibate, though married), Shaw continued
to produce a great volume of work throughout his life, finally dying
in 1950 of a fall endured whilst pruning his apple trees in Hertfordshire.