Tuesday, 17 August 2010
Must-Read book: Pygmalion
Pygmalion was an instant hit with the public when it was first staged in London in 1914.
Pygmalion is based on a Greek myth. Pygmalion was a sculptor who was devoted to the beautiful statues he created. One particular statue, carved out of ivory, was so beautiful that Pygmalion fell in love with it. He prayed to the goddess Aphrodite to make the statue come to life. Aphrodite granted his prayer, and the statue became a beautiful woman, named Galatea. Pygmalion married his creation.
As you read Shaw's play, think about its similarities to, and differences from, the myth ;)
Pygmalion presents a picture of the class system in England at the beginning of the 20th century. The upper class of rich landowners who lived on inherited wealth and did not have to work are represented in the embassy scene, the middle classes are represented by the Eynsford Hills, the Higgins family and Pickering, and the working classes by the Doolittles. Doolittle places himself in a subdivision, the iddle poor.
Shaw believed that people should not be limited by their birth. Through Eliza he shows that class barriers can be broken and equality achieved. Eliza wants to become one of the respectable middle classes.
Classes differences are based on superficial factors and the practice of judging people by speech, clothes, and appearance rather than by their innate worth is completely wrong!
Shaw believed that social progress could be made through education, and that an educated population would lead to a better, more equal society.
Shaw was a staunch supporter of equal rights for women and men. His attitude to the subject of equality is seen in his creation of Eliza, a strong character who retains her independent spirit and can argue effectively with the clever intimidating Higgins.