Literary analysis of ‘Pygmalion’ by Bernard Shaw
Shaw’s cleverly crafted and highly entertaining play mixes the Pygmalion myth from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, with a Victorian-day twist. Shaw’s Pygmalion combines dimensional characters, an entertaining plotline and vibrant themes in a way that truly encapsulates Victorian high society. Set in high society, Pygmalion follows a bet made by two upper class gentlemen: phonetics teacher, Higgins; and his linguist friend Colonel Pickering. Higgins bets Pickering that he can pass a young cockney girl, Eliza Doolittle off a member of the high society at a party. As the months go on, Eliza soon turns into a high society girl. After the party is a smashing success, the men grow bored of the bet, and of her. Eliza loses control of her identity through this “creation” but finds love, respect and a strong willed personality in the process. Shaw leaves the outcome open for interpretation as the audience is unsure if Eliza will leave her “creator” or remain with him. The characters are beautiful crafted in Pygmalion. One can’t help but love little Eliza who is thrown into the world of high society typical of many fairy tale Princesses. The audience can watch her blossom from a simple flower girl to an elegant woman on the outside. In Higgins the audience sees a modern day Pygmalion who creates a “creature” for his own ambitious project and entertainment. Higgins is the typical misogynistic male and the perfect character foil to Pickering, a kind and gentle man. These three characters balance one another out perfectly throughout the play and create an entertaining picture of high class Victorian day society, where appearance is everything and elegance can simply be crafted through speech. The themes that Pygmalion touches on are not hard to pick out; however, they are woven into the play in appropriate character development and dialogue. The theme of the importance of vanity in Victorian society is seen...
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