GEORGE BERNARD SHAW (1856-1950)
- At the beginning of the First World War I (1914), Great Britain was the greatest colonial power in the world;
- During the First World War (1914-1918) 1 million Britons died and 2 million were wounded;
- After the First World War, the colonies increased their demands for independence. The British Commonwealth of Nations was set up in 1926.
- The first half of the 20th century marked the end of the British Empire and the Industrial Revolution;
- Ireland was fighting for political independence from Great Britain.
ECONOMY AND SOCIETY:
Britain’s economic and military position was weakened by the wars;
After World War I, debt and unemployment led to:
- The General Strike (1926)
- The World Economic Depression (1930)
Women started to take on new roles:
- The Suffragette movement led to women being granted the right to vote;
- Women enjoyed more freedom, unlike in the Victorian era, when they were generally housebound.
The start of the 20th century marked a dramatic rise in the number of writers and readers;
IDEOLOGY AND CULTURE:
Modernism is a collective term for several literary orientations, such as Decadence, Expressionism, Imagism, Symbolism, and Post-Impressionism;
Modernism is a reaction against realism and naturalism, which aimed at representing reality as we see it;
Modernism is influenced by:
- Einstein’s theory of relativity;
- Freud’s psychological studies;
- Marx’s political theories.
The Modernist drama:
- Inspiration from Expressionism
- Revolt against realism, both in subject matter and style;
- Exaggeration and distortion of objective features of the outer world;
- The embodiment of extremes of mood and feeling;
- Direct expressions of thoughts and emotions;
- Use of symbolism and dream-like elements;
- Dehumanizing aspect in society.
THE AUTHOR AND HIS WORK
Born in Dublin in a middle-class family, worked as a clerk in Ireland; then moved to London, together with his mother;
Wrote novels, drama criticism, plays, and screenplays;
Won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925 and an Academy Award in 1938.
- “Widowers’ House”
- “Caesar and Cleopatra”
- “Man and Superman”
- “Saint Joan”
Shaw joined the Fabian Society – a socialist revolutionary group in London, whose main purpose was to protect the interests of the poor classes against what they considered to be the evils of capitalism. They aimed at the transformation of English society not through revolution, but through “permeation” of its intellectual and political life.
Shaw was a very complex personality in English literature:
- supporter of social reforms, of the abolition of private property and of the equality of the income;
- free thinker;
- supporter of women’s rights;
- militated for the simplification of spelling and punctuation and for a reform of the English alphabet.