"He ...who puts jesting above everything else" - On George Bernard Shaw's Birthday

26 July 1856, the Irish playwright, critic, pacifist and political activist George Bernard Shaw was born in Dublin.

“Bernard Shaw, who makes his Caesar gape at a stony Sphinx as if he were a Cook’s tourist, and forget to take leave from Cleopatra when he sails from Egypt, shows what a clown he is who puts jesting above everything else.” (Sigmund Freud)

Seeing the world turned upside down several times during his long life from the Victorian to the post-war period, Shaw nonetheless stayed true to himself, a brilliant wit and writer and a confessed socialist who flirted with radical ideas that have the odeur of being quite despicable in hindsight, such as Stalinism or Eugenics.

Starting his career as a music and theatre critic in 1880s’ London, Shaw soon made a name for himself as a sparkling epigrammatist as well as the author of five novels, became a member of the Socialist Fabian society and did not make any pretence of his persuasions that bordered, from time to time, on the radical.

Besides being an incredibly shrewd aphoristic, Shaw is best known as a playwright who invented his own form of theatrical play, more or less a discussion drama having various ideas embodied in the dramatis personae pinned against each other, while the plot is secondary to the staged clash of ideas – while malicious gossip has it that the dialogue in itself is secondary to the author being witty. Nonetheless, he does that with flying colours – in all of his more than 60 plays.

Shaw was awarded with the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925 "for his work which is marked by both idealism and humanity, its stimulating satire often being infused with a singular poetic beauty" and truer words were seldom said as justification during the last 100 years. Shaw is an interesting amalgam of phil- and misanthropy, to the point like few others and as deluded as many, an eccentric like many of his characters and… after all is said, a man.

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