G. B. Shaw's "Pygmalion"

Topics: George Bernard Shaw, My Fair Lady, Pygmalion Pages: 6 (2314 words) Published: May 7, 2008
Like all of Shaw's great dramatic creations, Pygmalion is a richly complex play. It combines a central story of the transformation of a young woman with elements of myth, fairy tale, and romance, while also combining an interesting plot with an exploration of social identity, the power of science, relations between men and women, and other issues.

Pygmalion is one of Shaw's most popular plays as well as one of his most straightforward ones. The form has none of the complexity that we find in Heartbreak House or Saint Joan, nor are the ideas in Pygmalion nearly as profound as the ideas in any of Shaw's other major works. It can be considerated an issue of language.

This play was written by George Bernard Shaw in 1912, presents a comic Edwardian version of the classical myth about Pygmalion, legendary sculptor and King of Cyprus, who fell in love with his own statue of Aphrodite. At his prayer, Aphrodite brought the statue to life as Galatea. George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion is the story of Henry Higgins, a master phonetician, and his mischievous plot to pass a common flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, off as a duchess at the Embassy Ball. In order to achieve his goal, Higgins must teach Eliza how to speak properly and how to act in upper-class society. The play looks at middle class morality and upper-class superficiality, and reflects the social ills of nineteenth century England, and attests that all people are worthy of respect and dignity.

Shaw is a British socialist who sympathized with the lower classes. Shaw criticized that the way of speaking of a person reveals his the social class of the people.

Shaw’s Pygmalion is Henry Higgins, a voluble professor of phonetics, who undertakes in a wanger with his colleague Colonel Pickering to turn a cockney flower-girl, Eliza Doolittle, how to speak English in an upper-class manner and transform her as to pass her off for a lady. In one sense she is the very antithesis of Galatea, since she starts a child of nature and ends an artefact. Nor is Higgins ever allowed to acknowledge to himself that he might fall in love with her. But another sense runs counter to this. Eliza’s transformation is more than from a common girl to lady. Higgins begins with what is to him no meant, and eventually has to acknowledge his creation as an enjoying and suffering woman. The play thus comes to move, in a manner unusual with Shaw, at more levels than one. ‘You have no idea’, Higgins tells his mother, ‘how frightfully interesting it is to take a human being and change her into a quite different human being by creating a new speech for her. It’s filling up the deepest gulf that separates class from class and soul from soul.’ This has—particularly, perhaps, in England—its social truth and comic potentiality.

Higgins on the one hand can be described as a rude, careless and impolite character, but at the same time likeable because of his fascination and dedication to his work. His rudeness may be revealed when he said about Eliza: "A woman who utters such depressing and disgusting sounds has no right to be anywhere - no right to live. Remember that you are a human being with a soul and the divine gift or articulate speech: that your native language is the language of Shakespeare and Milton and The Bible; and don't sit there crooning like a bilious pigeon." Higgins’s mother holds a great fascination for him, she speaks properly, has good manners and is the only woman Higgins adores. In general, he appears small-minded and doesn't reflect about problems Eliza might be confronted with.

Eliza, on the other hand, is willing to learn and does her best to please Higgins. When she becomes aware of Higgins' goals she eventually gets disappointing and angry. She feels as the subject of the experiment, while Higgins, never reflecting about her feelings, treats her in an impersonal way and can't understand her. Eliza’s father is a dustman, he play a little role which is pretty...
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