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National Theatre Blog

Bernard Shaw: 10 best one-liners

Fisayo Akinade and Gemma Arterton in the Donmar Warehouse's production of Saint Joan

To coincide wiith our NT Live broadcast of the Donmar Warehouse’s Saint Joan in 2017, we took a look at the wit behind the words, bringing you playwright Bernard Shaw’s ten best one-liners. 

Shaw once said, ‘I often quote myself. It adds spice to my conversation.’ Why not impress your friends by mastering some witty Shavian quotes yourself? And use the adjective Shavian while you’re at it, that’ll show ‘em.


  1. ‘Youth is a wonderful thing. What a crime to waste it on children.’ 
  2. ‘There are two tragedies in life. One is not to get your heart’s desire. The other is to get it.’
  3. ‘There is no love sincerer than the love of food.’
  4. ‘The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.’
  5. ‘England and America are two countries separated by a common language.’
  6. ‘If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.’
  7. ‘Alcohol is a very necessary article… It makes life bearable to millions of people who could not endure their existence if they were quite sober.’
  8. ‘We learn from experience that men never learn anything from experience.’
  9. ‘The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that’s the essence of inhumanity.’
  10. ‘When a thing is funny, search it carefully for a hidden truth.’


Saint Joan was broadcast live from the Donmar Warehouse on 16 February 2016. Find out out whats's on now at a venue near you.