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March 17 is the Feast of St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, and it is a perfect time to discover more about one of Ireland's most renowned writers, George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), winner of the 1925 Nobel Prize in Literature. Shaw was born in Dublin and moved to England in 1873, where he worked as a playwright, novelist, and music and theatre critic. He was also deeply involved with various political issues, some of them quite contentious and controversial.
Shaw’s most famous works are his plays, including Pygmalion, Man and Superman and Saint Joan. Pygmalion spawned many successful adaptations, including a film version that earned Shaw an Academy Award and the well-known musical My Fair Lady by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe. Canada’s annual Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake continues to celebrate his legacy by presenting a selection of his plays and those of his contemporaries every year.
The collection of essays Pen Portraits and Reviews, while not as well known as his plays, gives insight into Bernard Shaw the man. These essays cover a wide range of Shaw’s interests and concerns, including his thoughts on the works of Beethoven, Tolstoy, Ibsen, Keats and many others. Throughout the essays, his opinions on current social and political issues, as well as his views on the actions of many of his contemporaries, are evident.
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