George Bernard Shaw Quotes


George Bernard Shaw Quotes

 

 

“My way of joking is to tell the truth. It’s the funniest joke in the world.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from John Bull’s Other Island

“Shaw was a very great man indeed. The danger is that when all the froth and nonsense about his being a philosopher has died down (as it must) a reaction should set in and lead people to forget his real genius. He was a comedian, in his own time, of the very highest order[…]. He was a humorist of the more intellectual kind, a master of satire, art and fantasy like Gilbert, Wilde and Aristophanes. In that class no one had more continuous vitality. He is also, in his prefaces, one of the great masters of plain prose. I have often, in that capacity, held him up as a model to my pupils and have learned much from him myself. Peace to his ashes!”

– C. S. Lewis


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George Bernard Shaw Quotes about Art & Literature


“If you leave your art, the world will beat you back to it. The world has not an ambition worth sharing, or a prize worth handling. Corrupt successes, disgraceful failures, or sheep like vegetation are all it has to offer. I prefer Art, which gives me a sixth sense of beauty, with self-respect: perhaps also an immortal reputation in return for honest endeavor in a labor of love.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Love Among The Artists


“You use a glass mirror to see your face: you use works of art to see your soul.”

– George Bernard Shaw Quotes from Heartbreak House


“Vulgarity is a necessary part of a complete author’s equipment; and the clown is sometimes the best part of the circus.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Preface to London music in 1888-89 as heard by Corno di Bassetto (1937).


“Art is the magic mirror you make to reflect your invisible dreams in visible pictures. You use a glass mirror to see your face: you use works of art to see your soul. But we who are older use neither glass mirrors nor works of art. We have a direct sense of life. When you gain that you will put aside your mirrors and statues, your toys and your dolls.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes fromThe Serpant

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George Bernard Shaw Quotes about Change & Progress


“Revolutionary movements attract those who are not good enough for established institutions as well as those who are too good for them.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Androcles and the Lion


“People are always blaming circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Philanderer


“All progress means war with Society.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Getting Married


“The reformer for whom the world is not good enough finds himself shoulder to shoulder with him that is not good enough for the world.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Maxims for Revolutionists


“All very fine, Mary; but my old-fashioned common sense is better than your clever modern nonsense.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Love Among The Artists


“You cannot have power for good without having power for evil too. Even mother’s milk nourishes murderers as well as heroes.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Major Barbara


“The only man I know who behaves sensibly is my tailor; he takes my measurements anew each time he sees me. The rest go on with their old measurements and expect me to fit them.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Man and Superman


“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

– George Bernard Shaw


“The salvation of the world depends on the men who will not take evil good-humouredly, and whose laughter destroys the fool instead of encouraging him.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from What is the New Element in the Norwegian School?


“I hear you say “Why?” Always “Why?” You see things; and you say “Why?” But I dream things that never were; and I say “Why not?”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from The Serpent

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George Bernard Shaw Quotes about Death


 

“Death is for many of us the gate of hell; but we are inside on the way out, not outside on the way in.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from A Treatise on Parents and Children

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George Bernard Shaw Quotes about Education & Parenting


“You are so careful of your boy’s morals, knowing how troublesome they may be, that you keep him away from the Venus of Milo only to find him in the arms of the scullery maid or someone much worse. You decide that the Hermes of Praxiteles and Wagner’s Tristan are not suited for young girls; and your daughter marries somebody appallingly unlike either Hermes or Tristan solely to escape from your parental protection. You have not stifled a single passion nor averted a single danger: you have depraved the passions by starving them, and broken down all the defences which so effectively protect children brought up in freedom.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from A Treatise on Parents and Children


“You see, lots of the real people can’t do it at all: they’re such fools that they think style comes by nature to people in their position; and so they never learn.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Pygmalion


“In truth, mankind cannot be saved from without, by schoolmasters or any other sort of masters: it can only be lamed and enslaved by them. It is said that if you wash a cat it will never again wash itself. This may or may not be true: what is certain is that if you teach a man anything he will never learn it; and if you cure him of a disease he will be unable to cure himself the next time it attacks him.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Is there any hope in education?

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George Bernard Shaw Quotes about Humor & Wit


“Shaw: Madam, would you sleep with me for a million pounds?

Actress: My goodness, Well, I’d certainly think about it

Shaw: Would you sleep with me for a pound?

Actress: Certainly not! What kind of woman do you think I am?!”

Shaw: Madam, we’ve already established that. Now we are haggling about the price.

– George Bernard Shaw, Similar remarks are also attributed to Winston Churchill, Groucho Marx and to Mark Twain


“Think of the child with your brains and my beauty” Unidentified Woman

Shaw replying “But what if he were to have your brains and my beauty?”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from 10,000 Jokes, Toasts & Stories (1939) by Lewis & Faye Copeland


“A critic recently described me, with deadly acuteness, as having ‘a kindly dislike of my fellow-creatures.’ Perhaps dread would have been nearer the mark than dislike; for man is the only animal of which I am thoroughly and cravenly afraid.”

– George Bernard Shaw, As quoted in George Bernard Shaw, his life and works

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George Bernard Shaw Quotes about Knowledge & Wisdom


“When will we realize that the fact that we can become accustomed to anything, however disgusting at first, makes it necessary to examine carefully everything we have become accustomed to.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from A Treatise on Parents and Children


“Our natural dispositions may be good; but we have been badly brought up, and are full of anti-social personal ambitions and prejudices and snobberies. Had we not better teach our children to be better citizens than ourselves? We are not doing that at present. The Russians are. That is my last word. Think over it.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from The Apple Cart


“Every fool believes what his teachers tell him, and calls his credulity science or morality as confidently as his father called it divine revelation.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Maxims for Revolutionists


“A fool’s brain digests philosophy into folly, science into superstition, and art into pedantry.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Maxims for Revolutionists


“The road to ignorance is paved with good editions. Only the illiterate can afford to buy good books now.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from As quoted in Days with Bernard Shaw by Stephen Winsten


“Men are wise in proportion, not to their experience, but to their capacity for experience. If we could learn from mere experience, the stones of London would be wiser than its wisest men.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Maxims for Revolutionists


“One man that has a mind and knows it can always beat ten men who haven’t and don’t.”

– George Bernard Shaw

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George Bernard Shaw Quotes about Life


“What is life but a series of inspired follies? The difficulty is to find them to do. Never lose a chance: it doesn’t come every day.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Pygmalion


“We have no more right to consume happiness without producing it than to consume wealth without producing it.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Candida, Act I (1898).


“The secret of being miserable is to have leisure to bother about whether you are happy or not. The cure for it is occupation, because occupation means pre-occupation; and the pre-occupied person is neither happy nor unhappy, but simply alive and active, which is pleasanter than any happiness until you are tired of it.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from  A Treatise on Parents and Children


“You don’t learn to hold your own in the world by standing on guard, but by attacking, and getting well hammered yourself.”

– George Bernard Shaw


“[Chess] is a foolish expedient for making idle people believe they are doing something very clever, when they are only wasting their time.”

– George Bernard Shaw, The Irrational Knot (1905).


“Attention and activity lead to mistakes as well as to successes; but a life spent in making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from The Doctor’s Dilemma


“There are two tragedies in life. One is not to get your heart’s desire. The other is to get it.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Man and Superman, Influenced by Oscar Wilde


“It is not the sale of my soul that troubles me: I have sold it too often to care about that. I have sold it for a professorship. I have sold it for an income. … What is all human conduct but the daily and hourly sale of our souls for trifles?”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Major Barbara


“Never forget that if you leave your law to judges and your religion to bishops, you will presently find yourself without either law or religion.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Getting Married


“I make no vows. I take my chance. … It means that I fear certainty as you fear uncertainty. It means that nothing is certain but uncertainty. If I bind the future I bind my will. If I bind my will I strangle creation.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from The Serpent


“You can feel nothing but a torment, and believe nothing but a lie. You will not raise your head to look at all the miracles of life that surround you; but you will run ten miles to see a fight or a death.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from The Serpent


“The liar’s punishment is, not in the least that he is not believed, but that he cannot believe anyone else.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from A review of the works and ideas of Henrik Ibsen

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George Bernard Shaw Quotes about Love & Marriage


“If you begin by sacrificing yourself to those you love, you will end by hating those to whom you have sacrificed yourself.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Maxims for Revolutionists


“Women are not angels. They are as foolish as men in many ways; but they have had to devote themselves to life whilst men have had to devote themselves to death; and that makes a vital difference in male and female religion. Women have been forced to fear whilst men have been forced to dare: the heroism of a woman is to nurse and protect life, and of a man to destroy it and court death.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism and Capitalism


“There is no love sincerer than the love of food.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Man and Superman


“Home life as we understand it is no more natural to us than a cage is natural to a cockatoo.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Getting Married


“When two people are under the influence of the most violent, most insane, most delusive, and most transient of passions, they are required to swear that they will remain in that excited, abnormal, and exhausting condition continuously until death do them part.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Getting Married


“The confusion of marriage with morality has done more to destroy the conscience of the human race than any other single error.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Man and Superman


“The fickleness of the women I love is only equaled by the infernal constancy of the women who love me.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Philanderer

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George Bernard Shaw Quotes about Morality & Ethics


“I don’t believe in morality. I’m a disciple of Bernard Shaw.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from The Doctor’s Dilemma


“The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that’s the essence of inhumanity.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Where equality is undisputed, so also is subordination.


“Do not do unto others as you would expect they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Maxims for Revolutionists


“Patriotism is, fundamentally, a conviction that a particular country is the best in the world because you were born in it…”

– George Bernard Shaw


“You’ll never have a quiet world till you knock the patriotism out of the human race.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from O’Flaherty V.C.


“Any public committee man who tries to pack the moral cards in the interest of his own notions is guilty of corruption and impertinence. The business of a public library is not to supply the public with the books the committee thinks good for the public, but to supply the public with the books the public wants. … Censorship ends in logical completeness when nobody is allowed to read any books except the books that nobody can read. But as the ratepayer is mostly a coward and a fool in these difficult matters, and the committee is quite sure that it can succeed where the Roman Catholic Church has made its index expurgatorius the laughing-stock of the world, censorship will rage until it reduces itself to absurdity; and even then the best books will be in danger still.”

– George Bernard Shaw, As quoted in “Literary Censorship in England” in Current Opinion


“The faults of the burglar are the qualities of the financier: the manners and habits of a duke would cost a city clerk his situation.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Major Barbara


“Undershaft: You have made for yourself something that you call a morality or a religion or what not. It doesn’t fit the facts. Well, scrap it. Scrap it and get one that does fit. That is what is wrong with the world at present. It scraps its obsolete steam engines and dynamos; but it wont scrap its old prejudices and its old moralities and its old religions and its old political constitutions. Whats the result? In machinery it does very well; but in morals and religion and politics it is working at a loss that brings it nearer bankruptcy every year.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Major Barbara


“The greatest of evils and the worst of crimes is poverty. Poverty blights whole cities; spreads horrible pestilences; strikes dead the very souls of all who come within sight, sound or smell of it. What you call crime is nothing: a murder here and a theft there, a blow now and a curse then: what do they matter? they are only the accidents and illnesses of life: there are not fifty genuine professional criminals in London. But there are millions of poor people, abject people, dirty people, ill fed, ill clothed people. They poison us morally and physically: they kill the happiness of society: they force us to do away with our own liberties and to organize unnatural cruelties for fear they should rise against us and drag us down into their abyss. Only fools fear crime: we all fear poverty.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Major Barbara

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George Bernard Shaw Quotes about Nature


 

“Again, there is the illusion of “increased command over Nature,” meaning that cotton is cheap and that ten miles of country road on a bicycle have replaced four on foot. But even if man’s increased command over Nature included any increased command over himself (the only sort of command relevant to his evolution into a higher being), the fact remains that it is only by running away from the increased command over Nature to country places where Nature is still in primitive command over Man that he can recover from the effects of the smoke, the stench, the foul air, the overcrowding, the racket, the ugliness, the dirt which the cheap cotton costs us.”

– George Bernard Shaw

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George Bernard Shaw Quotes about Politics


“Any sort of plain speaking is better than the nauseous sham good fellowship our democratic public men get up for shop use.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from The Serpent


“Plato long ago pointed out the importance of being governed by men with sufficient sense of responsibility and comprehension of public duties to be very reluctant to undertake the work of governing.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Getting Married


“It is far more likely that by the time nationalization has become the rule, and private enterprise the exception, Socialism (which is really rather a bad name for the business) will be spoken of, if at all, as a crazy religion held by a fanatical sect in that darkest of dark ages, the nineteenth century. Already, indeed, I am told that Socialism has had its day, and that the sooner we stop talking nonsense about it and set to work, like the practical people we are, to nationalize the coal mines and complete a national electrification scheme, the better. And I, who said forty years ago that we should have had Socialism already but for the Socialists, am quite willing to drop the name if dropping it will help me to get the thing. What I meant by my jibe at the Socialists of the eighteen-eighties was that nothing is ever done, and much is prevented, by people who do not realize that they cannot do everything at once.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from The Intelligent Woman’s Guide To Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism, and Fascism


“He who confuses political liberty with freedom and political equality with similarity has never thought for five minutes about either.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Maxims for Revolutionists


“If the lesser mind could measure the greater as a foot-rule can measure a pyramid, there would be finality in universal suffrage. As it is, the political problem remains unsolved.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Maxims for Revolutionists

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George Bernard Shaw Quotes about Religion


“We know now that the soul is the body, and the body the soul. They tell us they are different because they want to persuade us that we can keep our souls if we let them make slaves of our bodies.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Heartbreak House


“Take the case of the extermination of Jesus Christ. No doubt there was a strong case for it. … By every argument, legal, political, religious, customary, and polite, he was the most complete enemy of the society of his time ever brought to the bar.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from On The Rocks


“The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality of happiness, and by no means a necessity of life.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from  Androcles and the Lion

 


“Howbeit, Paul succeeded in stealing the image of Christ crucified for the figure-head of his Salvationist vessel, with its Adam posing as the natural man, its doctrine of original sin, and its damnation avoidable only by faith in the sacrifice of the cross. In fact, no sooner had Jesus knocked over the dragon of superstition than Paul boldly set it on its legs again in the name of Jesus.”

– George Bernard Shaw


“But no public man in these islands ever believes that the Bible means what it says: he is always convinced that it says what he means; and I have no reason to hope that Mr Coote may be an exception to the rule.”

– George Bernard Shaw, “The Living Pictures”, The Saturday Review, LXXIX (April 6, 1895)


“I can’t talk religion to a man with bodily hunger in his eyes.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Major Barbara


“Must then a Christ perish in torment in every age to save those that have no imagination?”

– George Bernard Shaw


“Beware of the man whose god is in the skies.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Maxims for Revolutionists

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George Bernard Shaw Quotes about Society


“A healthy nation is as unconscious of its nationality as a healthy man of his bones. But if you break a nation’s nationality it will think of nothing else but getting it set again.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Major Barbara


“In a stupid nation the man of genius becomes a god: everybody worships him and nobody does his will.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Maxims for Revolutionists


“There have been summits of civilization at which heretics like Socrates, who was killed because he was wiser than his neighbors, have not been tortured, but ordered to kill themselves in the most painless manner known to their judges. But from that summit there was a speedy relapse into our present savagery.”

– George Bernard Shaw


“Martyrdom, sir, is what these people like: it is the only way in which a man can become famous without ability.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from The Devil’s Disciple, Act II


“Society, with all its prisons and bayonets and whips and ostracisms and starvations, is powerless in the face of the Anarchist who is prepared to sacrifice his own life in the battle with it. Our natural safety from the cheap and devastating explosives which every Russian student can make … lies in the fact that brave and resolute men, when they are rascals, will not risk their skins for the good of humanity, and, when they are sympathetic enough to care for humanity, abhor murder, and never commit it until their consciences are outraged beyond endurance. The remedy is, then, simply not to outrage their consciences.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Major Barbara


“Custom will reconcile people to any atrocity; and fashion will drive them to acquire any custom.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Killing For Sport


“The way to deal with worldly people is to frighten them by repeating their scandalous whisperings aloud.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Love Among The Artists

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George Bernard Shaw Quotes about Truth


“Reason enslaves all whose minds are not strong enough to master her.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Maxims for Revolutionists


“Optimistic lies have such immense therapeutic value that a doctor who cannot tell them convincingly has mistaken his profession.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Misalliance


“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

– George Bernard Shaw


“The more a man possesses over and above what he uses, the more careworn he becomes.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Maxims for Revolutionists


“The man with a toothache thinks everyone happy whose teeth are sound. The poverty stricken man makes the same mistake about the rich man.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from Maxims for Revolutionists


“My way of joking is to tell the truth. It’s the funniest joke in the world.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Quotes from John Bull’s Other Island

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Quotes about George Bernard Shaw


“Shaw knows at any moment, on any subject, what he thinks, what you will think, what others have thought, what all this thinking entails; and he takes the most elaborate pains to bring these thoughts to light in a form which is by turns abstract and familiar, conciliatory and aggressive, obvious and inferential, comic and puzzling. In a word, Shaw is perhaps the most consciously conscious mind that has ever thought — certainly the most conscious since Rousseau; which may be why both of them often create the same impression of insincerity amounting to charlatanism. Yet it is by excess of honesty that Shaw himself lent color to his representation as an inconsequential buffoon bent on monopolizing the spotlight.”

– Jacques Barzun, Quotes from Bernard Shaw in Twilight


“He never invested his whole moral capital in a man, a book, or a cause, but treasured up wisdom wherever it could be picked up, always with scrupulous acknowledgment … His eclecticism saving him from the cycle of hope-disillusion-despair, his highest effectiveness was as a skirmisher in the daily battle for light and justice, as a critic of new doctrine and a refurbisher of old, as a voice of warning and encouragement. That his action has not been in vain, we can measure by how little Shaw’s iconoclasm stirs our blood; we no longer remember what he destroyed that was blocking our view.”

– Jacques Barzun, Quotes from Bernard Shaw in Twilight


“He was a Tolstoy with jokes, a modern Dr Johnson, a universal genius who on his own modest reckoning put even Shakespeare in the shade.”

– John Campbell


“I never read a reply by Shaw that did not leave me in better and not worse temper or frame of mind; which did not seem to come out of inexhaustible fountains of fair mindedness and intellectual geniality; which did not savor somehow of that native largeness which the philosophers attributed to Magnanimous Man.”

– G. K. Chesterton, commenting on twenty years of debate with Shaw on political, religious and other social issues.


“He did his best in redressing the fateful unbalance between truth and reality, in lifting mankind to a higher rung of social maturity. He often pointed a scornful finger at human frailty, but his jests were never at the expense of humanity.”

– Thomas Mann


“Shaw is a pleasant man, simple, direct, sincere, animated; but self-possessed, sane, and evenly poised, acute, engaging, companionable, and quite destitute of affectation. I liked him.”

– Mark Twain, Quotes from after meeting Shaw in 1907


“Shaw was a very great man indeed. The danger is that when all the froth and nonsense about his being a philosopher has died down (as it must) a reaction should set in and lead people to forget his real genius. He was a comedian, in his own time, of the very highest order[…]. He was a humorist of the more intellectual kind, a master of satire, art and fantasy like Gilbert, Wilde and Aristophanes. In that class no one had more continuous vitality. He is also, in his prefaces, one of the great masters of plain prose. I have often, in that capacity, held him up as a model to my pupils and have learned much from him myself. Peace to his ashes!”

– C. S. Lewis

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