Pygmalion

Definition

Theater

  • George Bernard Shaw's comedy of linguistic manners.In order to demonstrate his point about the role of accent in theEnglish class system, Henry Higgins, a professor of phonetics, undertakesto transform a cockney flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, into a 'duchess'in six months. Although he succeeds, the play ends with Eliza at oddswith the overbearing Higgins, who persists in seeing her as an experimentalsubject rather than a human being. The play, one of Shaw's most popularworks, was first produced in Vienna in 1913; the part of Eliza waswritten for Mrs Patrick Campbell. For the 1938 film version,Shaw approved the scripted 'happy ending', with a reconciliation betweenthe Professor and Eliza (played by Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller).This modified plot was adapted for the Lerner and Loewe musical MyFair Lady (1956). Shaw is said to have based the Higgins characteron the distinguished Oxford phonetician, Henry Sweet (1845 - 1912).

    In Greek legend Pygmalion was a sculptor and king of Cyprus,who, according to Ovid's Metamorphoses, fell in love with hisown ivory statue of the ideal woman. At his prayer the goddess Aphroditegave life to the statue, and he married it. The story was adaptedby W. S. Gilbert in his comedy of Pygmalion and Galatea (1871),in which the sculptor is a married man. His wife, Cynisca, becomesjealous of the animated statue (Galatea), which, after considerabletrouble, returns voluntarily to its original state. see also Notbloody likely!.

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