Article Index

Introduction

It has been stated that the two best-known public figures in Britain in the first half of the twentieth century were Winston Churchill and Bernard Shaw.  Both were controversial, and they both had the good fortune to live long lives, thereby having the maximum amount of time available to impress their early critics.  It is a "well-known" fact that the English warm towards famous old men who have only earlier succeeded in irritating them, this was true in the case of Shaw.

Shaw began writing for the theatre when he realised this was a way to spread his own social viewpoint and it is primarily through his plays that he continues to be remembered.  His work was greatly influenced by the social plays of Henrik Ibsen.  He wrote some 50 pieces for the theatre: and few dramatists have put their social messages on stage with such urgency, or conveyed them so starkly.

Shaw spent his long life campaigning against the indignities of capitalism, the degradation of women, the crime of poverty, and the evils of war.

Brown, G.E., 'George Bernard Shaw', London, Evans Brothers, 1970, p. 9 & p. 21.
Payne, Tom, 'The A-Z of Great Writers', London, Carlton, 1997, p. 329

The greatest of evils and the worst of crimes is poverty ...

our first duty - a duty to which every other consideration should be sacrificed -

is not to be poor'

(Major Barbara, 1907, preface)