He is arguably the second most successful playwright after William Shakespeare. My four big reasons for valorising Shaw are:
First this man is a feminist – in an era where British women were fighting a bitter battle for the right to vote, Shaw was already an ardent advocate of equal rights for women – not only at the ballot box, but in the institutions of higher learning, in the right to pursue a career and be financially independent. His female characters have a mind of their own, unafraid to speak up for themselves, never mind that he makes them seemingly “unwomanly” in his plays, (by the way that is how the epithet, Shaw’s “unwomanly woman” originated). The point is this great guy was penning brochures to promote the suffragette movement, speaking at their rallies and gatherings and specifically made them equal as male members of his Fabian Society. He also donated to their cause.
Second he was a Socialist. He was not the violence/revolution-espousing leftist, in case that is what you are thinking. No he believed in peaceful means of revolution – that was why he founded the Fabian Society. Shaw saw the evils of unbridled capitalism – the greed, the exploitation and the glaring inequalities that it spawned. Yes the wealthy upper class characters in his plays are usually portrayed in rather negative light and he often gives his best lines to the lower classes. The downtrodden working class are often portrayed sympathetically while the wealthy upper class are portrayed as immoral, hypocritical, and self-seeking.
Third he was a self-made man because in spite of being forced out of school by a selfish drunkard for a father, he moved to London where he educated himself by reading fervently in libraries, attending talks and lectures although success eluded him in his thirties (he wrote five novels which all failed abysmally), by his mid-forties, he was already a household name, respected and admired. Actually he did not really liked schools, calling them prisons. He won numerous awards and citations, including the Nobel Prize for Literature not to mention the Academy Award, the Pulitzer Prize. Of course Shaw led a colourful life in the department of romance but his relationships with the opposite gender were mostly platonic but he did have a thing for actresses. However Shaw’s life changed for the better when he became a married man – the married playwright became the successful playwright.
Fourth he was a remarkably positive person. He was always very persistent and failures did not deter him. His career as a playwright was not always smooth-sailing although his works made him very rich. This is a quality many of us could certainly emulate. In addition he was witty, entertaining although he had some eccentric habits which I rather you, my dear reader find out on your own.