George Bernard Shaw Quotations

George Bernard Shaw / 1856–1950 / Ireland (then, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland) / Playwright, Essayist


He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.

Man and Superman, Appendix: Maxims for Revolutionists (1903).


Miss Warren is a great devotee of the Gospel of Getting On.

Mrs. Warren’s Profession, Act IV (1893).

You see things; and you say, “Why?” But I dream things that never were; and I say, “Why not?”

Back to Methuselah, Act I (1921).

One man that has a mind and knows it can always beat ten men who haven’t and don’t

The Apple Cart, Act I (1929).


People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. 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.

Mrs. Warren’s Profession, Act II (1893).


Liza: Theres lots of women has to make their husbands drunk to make them fit to live with. You see, it’s like this. If a man has a bit of a conscience, it always takes him when he’s sober; and then it makes him low-spirited. A drop of booze just takes that off and makes him happy.

Pygmalion, Act III (1913).


It is not . . . easy for mental giants who neither hate nor intend to injure their fellows to realize that nevertheless their fellows hate mental giants and would like to destroy them, not only enviously because the juxtaposition of a superior wounds their vanity, but quite humbly and honestly because it frightens them. Fear will drive men to any extreme; and the fear inspired by a superior being is a mystery which cannot be reasoned away.

Saint Joan, Preface (1923).

Golden Rule

Do not do unto others as you would that they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same.

Man and Superman, Appendix: Maxims for Revolutionists (1903).


We have no more right to consume happiness without producing it than to consume wealth without producing it.

Candida, Act I (1898).

A lifetime of happiness! No man alive could bear it: it would be hell on earth.

Man and Superman, Act I (1903).


Hardly any of us have ethical energy enough for more than one really inflexible point of honor.

The Doctor’s Dilemma, Preface (1906).


The great advantage of a hotel is that it’s a refuge from home life.

You Never Can Tell, Act II (1898).


The rich are instinctively crying “Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die,” and the poor, “How long, O Lord, how long?” But the pitiless reply still is that God helps those who help themselves. This docs not mean that if Man cannot find the remedy no remedy will be found. The power that produced Man when the monkey was not up to the mark, can produce a higher creature than Man if Man does not come up to the mark. What it means is that if Man is to be saved, Man must save himself.

Back to Methuselah, Preface (1921).


The savage bows down to idols of wood and stone: the civilized man to idols of flesh and blood.

Man and Superman, Appendix: Maxims for Revolutionists (1903).


The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that’s the essence of inhumanity.

The Devil’s Disciple, Act II (1901).


This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

Man and Superman, Epistle Dedicatory (1903).

Love and Marriage

It’s well to be off with the Old Woman before you’re on with the New.

The Philanderer, Act II (1893).

The fickleness of the women I love is only equaled by the infernal constancy of the women who love me.

The Philanderer, Act II (1893).

When two people are under the influence of the most violent, most insane, most delusive, and most transient of passions, they are required to swear that they will remain in that excited, abnormal, and exhausting condition continuously until death do them part.

Getting Married, Preface (1908).


Hell is full of musical amateurs: music is the brandy of the damned.

Man and Superman, Act III (1903).


The greatest of our evils and the worst of our crimes is poverty.

Major Barbara, Preface (1905).


There is only one religion, though there are a hundred versions of it.

Plays Pleasant and Unpleasant, Preface (1898).


An Englishman thinks he is moral when he is only uncomfortable.

Man and Superman, Act III (1903).

Pickering: Have you no morals, man?
Doolittle: Can’t afford them, Governor.

Pygmalion, Act II (1913).


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. . . . We are ashamed to walk, ashamed to ride in an omnibus, ashamed to hire a hansom instead of keeping a carriage, ashamed of keeping one horse instead of two and a groom-gardener instead of a coachman and footman. The more things a man is ashamed of, the more respectable he is.

Man and Superman, Act I (1903).


There are two tragedies in life. One is to lose your heart’s desire. The other is to gain it.

Man and Superman, Act IV (1903).


Virtue consists, not in abstaining from vice, but in not desiring it.

Man and Superman, Appendix: Maxims for Revolutionists (1903).


Man is no longer, like Don Juan, victor in the duel of sex. Whether he has ever really been may be doubted: at all events the enormous superiority of Woman’s natural position in this matter is telling with greater and greater force.

Man and Superman, Epistle Dedicatory (1903).


My method is to take the utmost trouble to find the right thing to say, and then to say it with the utmost levity.

Answers to Nine Questions (1896).