John Bull's Other Island

by George Bernard Shaw

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The following is a list of quotes from George Bernard Shaw's comedic play, John Bull's Other Island. As you will see by reviewing the quotes many are relevant to the political climate in Dublin, Ireland, during Shaw's time, roughly around the turn of the twentieth century. It’s important to note that the play opens in Westminster, at the offices of Mr. Lawrence Doyle and Mr. Thomas Broadbent, two civil engineers, who are described as bachelors and “bosom friends.” Shaw provides incredible detail of the office to set the scene. The atmosphere of the office is described as a room “no woman would tolerate,” one that also holds the smell of tobacco. As the play begins, the time on the wall clock is 4:40 p.m. It’s a mild and pleasant summer afternoon in 1904.

  • Broadbent: “I'm a Local Optionist to the backbone. You have no idea, Mr Haffigan, of the ruin that is wrought in this country by the unholy alliance of the publicans, the bishops, the Tories, and The Times. We must close the public-houses at all costs.”

  • Broadbent: “There are difficulties. I shall overcome them; but there are difficulties. When I first arrive in Ireland I shall be hated as an Englishman. As a Protestant, I shall be denounced from every altar. My life may be in danger. Well, I am prepared to face that.”

  • Broadbent: “Why are you so down on every Irishman you meet, especially if he's a bit shabby? poor devil! Surely a fellow-countryman may pass you the top of the morning without offense, even if his coat is a bit shiny at the seams.”

  • Doyle: “Is it possible that you don't know that all this top-o-the-morning and broth-of-a-boy and more-power-to-your-elbow business is as peculiar to England as the Albert Hall concerts of Irish music are?”

  • Doyle: “An Irishman's heart is nothing but his imagination.”

  • Doyle: “The inspired Churchman that teaches him the sanctity of life and the importance of conduct is sent away empty; while the poor village priest that gives him a miracle or a sentimental story of a saint, has cathedrals built for him out of the pennies of the poor.”

  • Doyle: “Live in contact with dreams and you will get something of their charm: live in contact with facts and you will get something of their brutality.”

  • Broadbent: “I shall never forget that with the chivalry of her nation, though I was utterly at her mercy, she refused me.”

  • Broadbent: “I can truthfully declare that I am glad it happened, because it has brought out the kindness and sympathy of the Irish character to an extent I had no conception of.”

  • Broadbent: “When I see the windbags, the carpet-baggers, the charlatans, the--the--the fools and ignoramuses who corrupt the multitude by their wealth, or seduce them by spouting balderdash to them, I cannot help thinking that an honest man with no humbug about him, who will talk straight common sense and take his stand on the solid ground of principle and public duty, must win his way with men of all classes.”

  • Broadbent: “The fact is, there are only two qualities in the world: efficiency and inefficiency, and only two sorts of people: the efficient and the inefficient.”

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