Pygmalion written by Bernard Shaw, was first performed on stage with Rex Harrison as Henry Higgins. The reception of the audience during the play was of utmost disappointment due to the non romantic ending of the play, even though that was Shaws initial intentions. My fair Lady on the other hand is a musical based on Pygmalion, and the movie was shot in 1964 by director George Cukor. Although there are numerous similarities between musical and play such as the character interactions or how both of them portray social status, especially in the conclusion, the musical displays several contradictions in comparison to the movie.
Bernard Shaw wrote the play during an important moment in history, which was when women were starting to gain independence in the beginning of the 20th century. It is produced in 1914 which is when WW1 broke out and war time made it easier for women to find work, and soon after women got their independent vote in 1920. Thus Pygmalion has a strong sense of feminism and independence as one of the leading themes to guide the characters on, especially Eliza.
Eliza throughout the play is striving to prove how women should be independent and not rely on men in order to lead a life. Both movie and play shows us that when Higgins turns Eliza into a duchess, he didnt give her just class and status but he took her independence away because she is not fit to sell anything else. What happens now is that if Eliza doesnt marry she has no one to provide for her and Freddy is useless because he has no talent for making money. Thus Higgins indirectly limited Elizas opportunities making her dependent on men. And during the movie when she goes back to Higgins she loses power in her character. Even though it was of her own free will and not on necessity, she still loses the power she had before.
Pygmalion comes from a Greek Myth, Ovids narrative where a man called Pygmalion makes a sculpture of a woman called Galatea. Ovids original idea is that Galatea would be a worshipping monument to Pygmalion with a woman who refuses to be bound to a man who says that he has created her. Shaw in a way is flouting with Ovids original purpose due to all the inferences even in Pygmalion that Higgins maybe has feelings for Eliza, supporting Shaws proposal of a woman within a low rank to dominate and gain the love of a middle class man. However, whether Eliza loves him or not is a different matter.
On the other hand, Shaw has an ironic ending of Eliza marrying Freddy. So her independence goes straight into the gutter when she goes from being the subject of one man to another, because that is the only thing an upper class woman is supposed to do in her life, just like when Mr. Doolittle said I was free. He wants to return to the undeserving poverty instead of living as a rich man where everyone wants something from him, including his wife now wants to marry him.
What happens is that as a working class woman, Eliza had her own independence and was used to assert her own rights I wont stay here if I dont like and I wont let nobody wallop me!. Now, women in her position cannot sell flowers and she must sell [her]self into marriage, giving up her rights and being dominate by men.
As a second theme, Higgins is shown as a dangerous teacher to Eliza due to his mind broadening influence. Similar to the movie Dead poets Society, just like the teacher Mr. Keating, Higgins exerts a subversive influence on Eliza, with an encouragement to such an extent that he fills her heads with dreams that life cant give. His destructive influence although with best intentions at heart, if Higgins had done nothing, Eliza would not have moved classes. But now that he has given her attributes changing her social class, he creates expectations, illusions and taste to a dream which she cannot fulfill. The consequence is that his actions creates these ripples which can disrupt society, because he is going against societys flow, just like Socrates, who...
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