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George Bernard Shaw Quotations


George Bernard Shaw Quotations

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), Dublin-born playwright, novelist, and socialist, lived in England after he was about twenty.

Here are quite well annotated Shaw quotations from many sources, with some toned-down adaptations added here and there, and all are put into a mold that suggests advancements or waking up (eye-openings too).


LoTaking advice from George Bernard Shaw and ceasing to be a musical amateur (or dropping dead) through it, seems like no small error

THAT A believer is happier than a sceptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. [George Bernard Shaw, Androcles and the Lion, Preface (1916)]

We have not lost faith, but we have transferred it from God to the medical profession. [George Bernard Shaw]

When a thing is funny, search it carefully for a hidden truth. [George Bernard Shaw]

The philosopher is Nature's pilot. [George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman (act III)]

Why should we take advice on sex from the pope? If he knows anything about it, he shouldn't! [George Bernard Shaw]

England and America are two countries separated by a common language. [George Bernard Shaw]

You'll never have a quiet world till you knock out the patriotism . . . [With George Bernard Shaw, O'Flaherty, V.C.]

Which painting in the National Gallery would I save if there was a fire? The one nearest the door of course. [George Bernard Shaw]

Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh. [George Bernard Shaw, The Doctor's Dilemma]

Hell is full of musical amateurs. [George Bernard Shaw]

If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance. [George Bernard Shaw]

I am a Millionaire. That is my religion. [George Bernard Shaw, Major Barbara (1907) act 2]

No man who is occupied in doing a very difficult thing, and doing it very well, ever loses his self-respect. [George Bernard Shaw]

The first condition of progress is the removal of censorship. [George Bernard Shaw, Preface to Mrs. Warren's Profession]

Titles distinguish the mediocre, embarrass the superior, and are disgraced by the inferior. [George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman]

In my experience the men who want something for nothing are invariably Christians. [George Bernard Shaw, The Nobleman, in Saint Joan, sc. 4]

The world is populated in the main by people who should not exist. [George Bernard Shaw]

There can be two tragedies in life: one is not to get your heart's desire. The other is to get it. [With George Bernard Shaw]

Nobody can say a word against Greek: it stamps a man at once as an educated gentlemen. [George Bernard Shaw, Major Barbara] (2)

What is the matter with the rich is Uselessness. [George Bernard Shaw]

We can learn from history that we seem to learn nothing from history. [With George Bernard Shaw]

Hell is not all paved with bad intentions. [Cf. George Bernard Shaw]

There are few loves sincerer than the love of food. [Cf. George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman (1903) act 1]

LoReputation depends on people who give it

HAPPINESS of credulity can be cheap and dangerous. [With George Bernard Shaw, Androcles and the Lion, Preface (1916)] (3)

I have made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week. [George Bernard Shaw]

Money is a most important thing in the world. [Cf. George Bernard Shaw]

Do not do unto others as you would that they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same. [George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman (1903), Maxims for Revolutionists]

Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all others because you were born in it. [George Bernard Shaw]

Seemingly unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves. Much progress, therefore, depends on such people. [With George Bernard Shaw]

Give women the vote, and in five years there will be a crushing tax on bachelors. [George Bernard Shaw]

Martyrdom... is one way in which a man can become famous without ability. [With George Bernard Shaw, The Devil's Disciple (1901) act 3] (4)

Lack of money is the root of much evil. [With George Bernard Shaw]

My situation is . . . death is better than cannibalism. My will contains directions for my funeral, which will be followed not by mourning coaches, but by oxen, sheep, flocks of poultry, and a small travelling aquarium of live fish, all wearing white scarf's in honour of the man who perished rather than eat his fellow creatures. [George Bernard Shaw]

If all economists were laid end to end, they would not reach a conclusion. [George Bernard Shaw]

The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it. [George Bernard Shaw]

The only man who behaved sensibly was my tailor; he took my measurement anew every time he saw me, while all the rest went on with their old measurements and expected them to fit me. [George Bernard Shaw]

You see things; and you say, 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say, Why not? [George Bernard Shaw, Back to Methuselah (1921), part 1, act 1]

Virtue is insufficient temptation. [George Bernard Shaw]

What we want is to see the child in pursuit of knowledge, and not knowledge in pursuit of the child. [George Bernard Shaw]

LoObserve that managing "ten things in the sky" (including coming projects) can give rise to very hard work

YOU ARE . . . the most bigoted of obstructionists in science itself. When it comes to getting a move on you are all of the same opinion: stop it, flog it, hang it, dynamite it, stamp it out. [George Bernard Shaw, a naturalist, addressing other members of the Caravan of the Curious, in The Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search for God (1932). From The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations] (5)

When I was young I observed that nine out of every ten things I did were failures, so I did ten times more work. [George Bernard Shaw]

A doctor's reputation is made by the number of eminent men who die under his care. [George Bernard Shaw] MM

Beware of the man whose God is in the skies. [George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman (1903) Maxims for Revolutionists] (7)

Common people do not pray; they only beg. [George Bernard Shaw, Misalliance (1910), quoted from Encarta Book of Quotations]

Education: A succession of eye-openers each involving the repudiation of some previously held belief. [George Bernard Shaw, attributed]


  1. Taking advice from George Bernard Shaw and ceasing to be a musical amateur (or dropping dead) through it, seems like no small error.
  2. Reputation depends on what sort of people that give it.
  3. Observe that managing "ten things in the sky" (including coming projects) can give rise to very hard work.

IN NUCE Taking advice from drop-dead-Bernard of plenty of hard work, depends on trust that is put into that one. I would not succumb to faith like that, but rather go on and play not his game, or "music", but my own.

And bother . . .

ANECDOTE While Shaw was still a music critic, he was dining with a friend in a restaurant that provided for entertainment an orchestra that was at best mediocre. The leader, recognising Shaw, wrote him a note asking him what he would like the orchestra to play next.

  "Dominoes," replied Shaw.

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