by George Bernard Shaw
Pygmalian is a humane comedy about love and the English class system.
Pygmalion both delighted and scandalized its first audiences in 1914.
A brilliantly witty reworking of the classical tale of the sculptor Pygmalion, who falls in love with his perfect female statue, it is also a barbed attack on the British class system and a statement of Shaw’s feminist views.
In Shaw’s hands, the phoneticist Henry Higgins is the Pygmalion figure who believes he can transform Eliza Doolittle, a cockney flower girl, into a duchess at ease in polite society.
The one thing he overlooks is that his ‘creation’ has a mind of her own.
Henry Higgins, a phonetician, accepts a bet that simply by changing the speech of a Cockney flower seller he will be able, in six months, to pass her off as a duchess.
Eliza undergoes grueling training. When she successfully “passes” in high society—having in the process become a lovely young woman of sensitivity and taste—Higgins dismisses her abruptly as a successfully completed experiment.
Eliza, who now belongs neither to the upper class, whose mannerisms and speech she has learned, nor to the lower class, from which she came, rejects his dehumanizing attitude.
The play became famous as a motion picture in 1938 and later as the stage musical My Fair Lady (1956), with a musical score by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe.
A 1964 film version of the musical featured Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn.
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