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75 Striking Quotes by George Bernard Shaw

Last updated on Jul 25th, 2019

75 Striking Quotes by George Bernard Shaw

George Bernard Shaw (born July 26, 1856, Dublin, Ireland – died November 2, 1950, Ayot St Lawrence, Hertfordshire, England) was an Irish playwright, comic dramatist, literary critic, and a prominent member of the Fabian Society.

Shaw wrote more than 60 plays, including works such as Caesar and Cleopatra (1898), Man and Superman (1902), Major Barbara (1905), The Doctor’s Dilemma (1906), Pygmalion (1912), and Saint Joan (1923).

He became the first person to have been awarded both a Nobel Prize for Literature (1925) and an Oscar (1938). The former for his contributions to literature, and the latter for Best Screenplay on the film Pygmalion (1938).

Best remembered for his iconic wit, Shaw is one of the most significant playwrights in the English language.

1
We have no more right to consume happiness without producing it than to consume wealth without producing it.'Act I,' Candida (1894)
2
He who has never hoped can never despair.'Act IV,' Caesar and Cleopatra (1898)
3
When a thing is funny, search it for a hidden truth.'Part IV: Tragedy of an Elderly Gentleman, Act III,' Back to Methuselah (1922)
4
Science becomes dangerous only when it imagines that it has reached its goal.'Preface,' The Doctor's Dilemma (1906)
Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything. - George Bernard Shaw (Everybody's Political What's What? Quotes)
5
Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.'Chapter XXXVII: Creed and Conduct,' Everybody's Political What's What? (1944)
6
If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience!'Maxims for Revolutionists: Stray Sayings,' Man and Superman (1903)
7
If there was nothing wrong in the world there wouldn’t be anything left for us to do.The Shewing-Up of Blanco Posnet (1909)
8
Marriage is popular because it combines the maximum of temptation with the maximum of opportunity.'Maxims for Revolutionists: Marriage,' Man and Superman (1903)
9
Democracy substitutes election by the incompetent many for appointment by the corrupt few.'Maxims for Revolutionists: Democracy,' Man and Superman (1903)
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 (Man and Superman Quotes)
10
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.'Maxims for Revolutionists: Reason,' Man and Superman (1903)
11
You use a glass mirror to see your face: you use works of art to see your soul.'Part IV: Tragedy of an Elderly Gentleman, Act III,' Back to Methuselah (1922)
12
Every person who has mastered a profession is a skeptic concerning it.'Foreword,' The Revolutionist's Handbook and Pocket Companion (1903)
13
A man’s interest in the world is only the overflow from his interest in himself.'Act II,' Heartbreak House (1919)
14
We are made wise not by the recollections of our past, but by the responsibilities of our future.'Part IV: Tragedy of an Elderly Gentleman, Act I,' Back to Methuselah (1922)
Beware of his false knowledge: it is more dangerous than ignorance. - George Bernard Shaw (Man and Superman Quotes)
15
Beware of his false knowledge: it is more dangerous than ignorance.'Maxims for Revolutionists: Education,' Man and Superman (1903)
16
If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.'Preface,' Immaturity (1930)
17
Beware of the man who does not return your blow: he neither forgives you nor allows you to forgive yourself.'Maxims for Revolutionists: Stray Sayings,' Man and Superman (1903)
18
All great truths begin as blasphemies.Annajanska, the Bolshevik Empress (1918)
19
Better see rightly on a pound a week than squint on a million.'Preface: Mainly About Myself,' Plays Unpleasant (1898)
There is no love sincerer than the love of food. - George Bernard Shaw (Man and Superman Quotes)
20
There is no love sincerer than the love of food.'Act I,' Man and Superman (1903)
21
Give a man health and a course to steer; and he’ll never stop to trouble about whether he’s happy or not.'Act III,' Captain Brassbound's Conversion (1900)
22
The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that’s the essence of inhumanity.'Act II,' The Devil's Disciple (1897)
23
He knows nothing; and he thinks he knows everything. That points clearly to a political career.'Act III,' Major Barbara (1905)
24
The salvation of the world depends on the men who will not take evil good-humoredly, and whose laughter destroys the fool instead of encouraging him.'What is the New Element in the Norwegian School?,' The Quintessence of Ibsenism (1891)
A life spent in making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing. - George Bernard Shaw (The Doctor's Dilemma Quotes)
25
A life spent in making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.'Preface,' The Doctor's Dilemma (1906)
26
The man who listens to Reason is lost: Reason enslaves all whose minds are not strong enough to master her.'Maxims for Revolutionists: Reason,' Man and Superman (1903)
27
A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.'Chapter XXX: State Corruption,' Everybody's Political What's What? (1944)
28
Man can climb to the highest summits; but he cannot dwell there long.'Act III,' Candida (1894)
29
Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire; you will what you imagine; and at last you create what you will.'Act I,' Back to Methuselah (1922)
There are two tragedies in life. One is not to get your heart's desire. The other is to get it. - George Bernard Shaw (Man and Superman Quotes)
30
There are two tragedies in life. One is not to get your heart’s desire. The other is to get it.'Act IV,' Man and Superman (1903)
31
When a man wants to murder a tiger he calls it sport: when the tiger wants to murder him he calls it ferocity. The distinction between Crime and Justice is no greater.'Maxims for Revolutionists: Crime and Punishment,' Man and Superman (1903)
32
One man that has a mind and knows it can always beat ten men who haven’t and don’t.'Act I,' The Apple Cart (1929)
33
My way of joking is to tell the truth. It’s the funniest joke in the world.'Act II,' John Bull's Other Island (1904)
34
A perpetual holiday is a good working definition of Hell.'Preface: Parents and Children,' Misalliance (1910)
Revolutions have never lightened the burden of tyranny: they have only shifted it to another shoulder. - George Bernard Shaw (The Revolutionist's Handbook and Pocket Companion Quotes)
35
Revolutions have never lightened the burden of tyranny: they have only shifted it to another shoulder.'And Yet,' The Revolutionist's Handbook and Pocket Companion (1903)
36
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.'Act II,' Mrs. Warren's Profession (1902)
37
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.'Act II,' Pygmalion (1913)
38
A fool’s brain digests philosophy into folly, science into superstition, and art into pedantry. Hence University education.'Maxims for Revolutionists: Education,' Man and Superman (1903)
39
As long as I have a want, I have a reason for living. Satisfaction is death.Overruled (1912)
When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty. - George Bernard Shaw (Caesar and Cleopatra Quotes)
40
When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty.'Act III,' Caesar and Cleopatra (1898)
41
The novelties of one generation are only the resuscitated fashions of the generation before last.'Preface: On Diabolonian Ethics,' Three Plays For Puritans (1901)
42
Hell, in short, is a place where you have nothing to do but amuse yourself.'Act III,' Man and Superman (1903)
43
Self-sacrifice enables us to sacrifice other people without blushing.'Maxims for Revolutionists: Self-Sacrifice,' Man and Superman (1903)
44
Gambling promises the poor what Property performs for the rich.'Maxims for Revolutionists: Self-Sacrifice,' Man and Superman (1903)
Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it. - George Bernard Shaw (Man and Superman Quotes)
45
Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.'Maxims for Revolutionists: Liberty and Equality,' Man and Superman (1903)
46
Do not do unto others as you would that they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same.'Maxims for Revolutionists: The Golden Rule,' Man and Superman (1903)
47
There are no secrets better kept than the secrets everybody guesses.'Act II,' Mrs. Warren's Profession (1902)
48
Cruelty would be delicious if one could only find some sort of cruelty that didn’t really hurt.'Act II,' Heartbreak House (1919)
49
Those who do not know how to live must make a merit of dying.Heartbreak House (1919)
He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches. - George Bernard Shaw (Man and Superman Quotes)
50
He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.'Maxims for Revolutionists: Education,' Man and Superman (1903)
51
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.'Preface on the Prospects of Christianity,' Androcles and the Lion (1912)
52
There are no perfectly honorable men; but every true man has one main point of honor and a few minor ones.'Maxims for Revolutionists: Honor,' Man and Superman (1903)
53
There are no secrets except the secrets that keep themselves.'Part III: The Thing Happens,' Back to Methuselah (1922)
54
We live in an atmosphere of shame. We are ashamed of everything that is real about us; ashamed of ourselves, of our relatives, of our incomes, of our accents, of our opinions, of our experience, just as we are ashamed of our naked skins.'Act I,' Man and Superman (1903)
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 Quotes)
55
You see things; and you say ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say ‘Why not?’'Part I: In the Beginning, Act I,' Back to Methuselah (1922)
56
The surest way to ruin a man who doesn’t know how to handle money is to give him some.'Act II,' Heartbreak House (1919)
57
The liar’s punishment is not in the least that he is not believed, but that he cannot believe anyone else.'The Two Pioneers,' The Quintessence of Ibsenism (1891)
58
No question is so difficult to answer as that to which the answer is obvious.Our Theatres In The Nineties (1932)
59
Men are wise in proportion, not to their experience, but to their capacity for experience.'Maxims for Revolutionists: Experience,' Man and Superman (1903)
Life is not meant to be easy, my child; but take courage: it can be delightful. - George Bernard Shaw (Back to Methuselah Quotes)
60
Life is not meant to be easy, my child; but take courage: it can be delightful.'Part IV: Tragedy of an Elderly Gentleman, Act III,' Back to Methuselah (1922)
61
No man who is occupied in doing a very difficult thing, and doing it very well, ever loses his self-respect.'Preface,' The Doctor's Dilemma (1906)
62
People become attached to their burdens sometimes more than the burdens are attached to them.'Preface: Parents and Children,' Misalliance (1910)
63
My specialty is being right when other people are wrong.'Act IV,' You Never Can Tell (1899)
64
Remember that the progress of the world depends on your knowing better than your elders.'Preface: Parents and Children,' Misalliance (1910)
Take care to get what you like or you will be forced to like what you get. - George Bernard Shaw (Man and Superman Quotes)
65
Take care to get what you like or you will be forced to like what you get.'Maxims for Revolutionists: Stray Sayings,' Man and Superman (1903)
66
The secret of being miserable is to have leisure to bother about whether you are happy or not. The cure for it is occupation.'Preface: Parents and Children,' Misalliance (1910)
67
The man with toothache thinks everyone happy whose teeth are sound. The poverty stricken man makes the same mistake about the rich man.'Maxims for Revolutionists: Beauty and Happiness, Art and Riches,' Man and Superman (1903)
68
If you must hold yourself up to your children as an object lesson, hold yourself up as a warning and not as an example.'Preface: Parents and Children,' Misalliance (1910)
69
Use your health, even to the point of wearing it out. That is what it is for. Spend all you have before you die; and do not outlive yourself.'Preface,' The Doctor's Dilemma (1906)
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 (Misalliance Quotes)
70
Death is for many of us the gate of hell; but we are inside on the way out, not outside on the way in.'Preface: Parents and Children,' Misalliance (1910)
71
We want a few mad people now. See where the sane ones have landed us!'Scene I,' Saint Joan (1923)
72
The most tragic thing in the world is a man of genius who is not also a man of honor.'Act IV,' The Doctor's Dilemma (1906)
73
In this world there is always danger for those who are afraid of it.'Act II,' The Devil's Disciple (1897)
74
Nothing is worth doing unless the consequences may be serious.'Misalliance,' Misalliance (1910)
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 Quotes)
75
Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh.'Act V,' The Doctor's Dilemma (1906)

No Source

1
Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.No source
2
Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not.No source
3
I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.No source
4
Youth is a wonderful thing. What a crime to waste it on children.No source
5
If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.No source

Misattributed

1
The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.William H. Whyte (More info)
2
We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.G. Stanley Hall (More info)