Born in Dublin, Shaw moved to London during the 1870s to embark on his literary career. He wrote five novels, all of which were rejected, before finding his first success as a music critic on the Star newspaper. In the meantime he had become involved in politics, and served as a local councillor in the St Pancras district of London for several years from 1897. He was a noted socialist who took a leading role in the Fabian Society.
In 1895, he became the drama critic of the Saturday Review, and this was the first step in his progress towards a lifetime's work as a dramatist. In 1898, he married an Irish heiress, Charlotte Payne-Townshend, and his first successful play, Candida, was produced in the same year. He followed this up with a series of classic comedy-dramas, including The Devil's Disciple (1897), Arms and the Man (1898), Mrs Warren's Profession (1898), Captain Brassbound's Conversion (1900), Man and Superman (1902), Caesar and Cleopatra (1901), Major Barbara (1905), Androcles and the Lion (1912), and Pygmalion (1913). After World War I, on which he took a controversial stance, he produced more serious dramas, including Heartbreak House (1919) and Saint Joan (1923). An interesting characteristic of Shaw's published plays is the lengthy prefaces that accompany them. In those essays, Shaw wrote more about his usually controversial opinions on the issues touched by the plays than about the plays themselves. Some prefaces are much longer that the actual play.
Shaw's correspondence with Mrs. Patrick Campbell was adapted for the stage by Jerome Kilty as DEAR LIAR: A Comedy of Letters. His letters to another prominent actress, Ellen Terry, have also been published and dramatised.
By the time of his death, Shaw was not only a household name in the British Isles, but a world figure. Concerned about the inconsistency of English spelling, he willed a portion of his wealth to fund the creation of a new phonetic alphabet for the English language, known as the Shavian alphabet.