Chesterton excels himself as a biographer in this study. Being himself a famous author and a long-standing friend of George Bernard Shaw, he covers the life and works of the Irish playwright Shaw with warmth and critical perspicacity. In one hundred thrifty pages Chesterton covers the ground in a notably more concise style than is his wont. The three main formative influences on Shaw are covered in the first three chapters of note: The Irishman; The Puritan (highly enlightening on Puritanism in general); and The Progressive (social critic). The next chapter, 'The Critics', covers the understanding (which is to say, the misunderstanding) of Shaw's works by the other critics and the public at large. 'The Dramatist' concisely reviews his earlier key plays in terms of his development and their typicality of Shaw as a whole. The longest and best chapter is 'The Philosopher' which looks at his later development from the time of 'Caesar and Cleopatra' and 'Man and Superman', when Shaw lost his faith in humanism (through reading Plato), and turned to Nietzsche for some other vague form of inspiration.
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The depth and breadth of understanding of Shaw the man and his works herein is due not only to the customary genius of Chesterton, but also the personal relationship he had with his fellow member of the literati. As he jokes in his introduction: "Most people either say that they agree with Bernard Shaw or that they do not understand him. I am the only person who understands him, and I do not agree with him."
The review of this Book prepared by Michael JR Jose