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  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: May 2006

9 - George Bernard Shaw and Ireland


At the age of ninety, George Bernard Shaw was asked by an Irish newspaper reporter to what extent he thought his mentality had been tempered by the fact that he had been born in Ireland. He responded:

To the extent of making me a foreigner in every other country. But the position of a foreigner with complete command of the same language has great advantages. I can take an objective view of England, which no Englishman can. I could not take an objective view of Ireland.

David Greene and Dan Laurence have refuted the writer’s claim that he suffered from a lack of objectivity when confronted with the subject of Ireland:

During the period of more than sixty years in which these selections were written, and which Ireland arrived at her final appointment with destiny through bitter political agitation, bloodshed, and civil war, not many Irishmen, whether participants in those events or merely commentators on them, showed as much objectivity as Shaw did . . . It is all the more remarkable therefore that Shaw, who believed he could not be objective on the subject of his native country, could be not only objective but temperate and wise in an atmosphere of rabid partisanship. The reader, knowing that very few of the books which made Shaw famous deal with Ireland, will also be surprised to learn how concerned he was about the problems of his native country and how much of his time and energies was devoted to studying and writing about them (The Matter With Ireland, ix).

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The Cambridge Companion to Twentieth-Century Irish Drama
  • Online ISBN: 9780511999567
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