Literary analysis of the play "Pygmalion" by G.B. Shaw

Familiarization with the biographical facts of life of B. Shaw. Conducting analysis of the literary work of the writer and assessment of its contribution to the treasury of world literature. Reading's best-known work of the author of "Pygmalion".

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1. Social conditions in England in the beginning of the 20th century

2. Shaw's biography and his place in the development of the English literature

2.1 Early life and family

2.2 Personal life and political activism

2.3 Literary activity and criticism

3. Pygmalion - one of the best works of George Bernard Shaw

3.1 Plot of the play

3.2 Origin of the play's title

3.3 Literary analysis of the play Pygmalion


The list of used literature


It is well known that literature plays an important role in learning a foreign language. In rapidly developing contemporary world the level of learning foreign languages may have crucial effect on well-being of a personality and the whole society. Without good specialists who know foreign languages professionally well this is impossible to have beneficial and effective negotiations and talks with foreign partners. All spheres of contemporary social and economic life today demands global contacts.

The English language today serves as a means of this contact between people and nations of the universe. That's why the importance of learning and propagating of this language was paid attention by the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan I. A. Karimov. In his speech in Samarkand on November 12, 2010 he pointed out the importance of learning and teaching English and gave priority to the learning of it. It is not for nothing. Today it is well known that knowing this language may bring only favour and not harm.

English language developed in the course of time in its birthplace - England and later in such countries as the USA, Australia, New Zealand. The development of a language is determined by the development of literature. All the positive (and negative) features of a language can find their reflection in literature. Thus language is influencing the literature. In this point we can say that literature and language are intertwined and the learning of one demands the learning of the other one.

English literature has passed great and complicated way of development. It gave to the treasure of world literature such great names as Shakespeare, Chaucer, Byron, Shaw, Hemingway, Twain and so many others.

The theme of my course paper sounds as following: “Literary analysis of the play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw”. In this work, I investigated life and creative activity of George Bernard Shaw and especially his famous play Pygmalion: the characters of the play and their spiritual philosophy, conflict and social background of the play, writing style of Pygmalion and the origin of its title.

Bernard Shaw occupies a conspicuous place in the historical development of the English and the world literature. In his books Shaw could realistically describe the social life of people. He considered language a lot and tried to reform English and make it easier to read and to learn. This point of Shaw's creative activity determines the actuality of my course paper.

Shaw entered drama area as the original innovator. He established a new type of a drama at the English theatre - an intellectual drama in which the basic place belongs neither to an intrigue, nor to a fascinating plot but to those intense disputes, witty verbal duels which are conducted by its heroes. Shaw called his plays "plays-discussions". They grasped the depth of problems, the extraordinary form of their resolution; they excited consciousness of the spectator, forced him to reflect tensely over an event and to laugh together with the playwright at the absurd of existing laws, orders and customs. In this assignment I intend to analyze the play «Pygmalion» of Bernard Shaw and show its peculiarities to the reader.

1. Social conditions in England in the beginning of the 20th century

The Edwardian era or Edwardian period in the United Kingdom is the period covering the reign of King Edward VII, 1901 to 1910.

The death of Queen Victoria in January 1901 and the succession of her son, Edward, marked the start of a new century and the end of the Victorian era. While Victoria had shunned society, Edward was the leader of fashionable elite which set a style influenced by the art and fashions of continental Europe--perhaps because of the King's fondness for travel. The era was marked by significant shifts in politics as sections of society which had been largely excluded from wielding power in the past, such as common labourers and women, became increasingly politicised.

The Edwardian period is frequently extended beyond Edward's death in 1910 to include the years up to the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912, the start of World War I in 1914, the end of hostilities with Germany on November 11, 1918, or the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919. By the end of the war, the Edwardian way of life, with its inherent imbalance of wealth and power, had become increasingly anachronistic in the eyes of a population who had suffered in the face of war and who were exposed to elements of new mass media which decried the injustice of class division.

Socially, the Edwardian era was a period during which the British class system was very rigid. It is seen, as the last period of the English country house. Economic and social changes created an environment in which there was more social mobility. Such changes included rising interest in socialism, attention to the plight of the poor and the status of women, including the issue of women's suffrage, together with increased economic opportunities as a result of rapid industrialization. These changes were to be hastened in the aftermath of the First World War.

The society of that time can be divided into three categories: the upper class, the middle class and the working class.

The Edwardian Upper Class consisted of the King and the Queen, Aristocrats, Nobles, Dukes, Viscounts and other wealthy families working in the Victorian courts. A distinguishing factor of the Upper Class was that the nature of their work was such that it held them in a powerful position giving authority, better living conditions and other facilities which was out of the reach of the other two classes. Due to the changing nature of the basic standard of living of the people, the traditional aristocratic class was now slowing disappearing and instead a new combination of nobles and the steadily growing wealthy class comprised of the Upper section of the society.

The Upper Class was by inheritance a Royal Class which was completely different from the Middle class or the Working Class. Thus, they were never short of money. In terms of education also those belonging to the rich families got the best tutors to provide education. The fact that they represented the royal class gave these people an advantage at everything. They could buy expensive clothes imported from Europe, or afford other riches of life that was beyond the scope of others.

Middle class was the next in social ranking as many of them only lacked in title of being a duke or other royals. Most of the professionals like doctors or teachers comprised of the middle class.

Middle class people also owned and managed vast business empires and were very rich. At times, the rich were equated with the middle class if they had nothing to promote their royalty and richness. Thus, those having their own businesses were regarded as rich and wealthy.

The Lower/ Working Class: the lowest among the social hierarchy were those who belonged to this section of the society. Like the middle class, those belonging to this class very large in number. The working class remained aloof to the political progress of the country and was hostile to the other two classes. For some working families the living conditions were so pathetic that they required their children to work in order to bring home some extra home to survive. The death of their father meant that there is no income to the family and they eventually were forced to live on streets or some public housing.

All these conditions had a negative impact on their lives. Many of them lost out opportunity to get education and better their living status as their entire life right from the age of five or six years was spent on working in a factory. They thus ended up doing dangerous and dirty jobs. Another class that existed was the paupers. They were ranked below the working class since they lived in abject poverty.

Surveys showed that at the beginning of the 20th century 25% of the population were living in poverty. They found that at least 15% were living at subsistence level. They had just enough money for food, rent, fuel and clothes. They could not afford 'luxuries' such as newspapers or public transport. About 10% were living in below subsistence level and could not afford an adequate diet.

The main cause of poverty was low wages. The main cause of extreme poverty was the loss of the main breadwinner. If father was dead, ill or unemployed it was a disaster. Mother might get a job but women were paid much lower wages than men.

The children of the poor were expected to help towards the family budget, often working long hours in dangerous jobs for low wages. Agile boys were employed by the chimney sweeps; small children were employed to scramble under machinery to retrieve cotton bobbins; and children were also employed to work in coal mines, crawling through tunnels too narrow and low for adults. Children also worked as errand boys, crossing sweepers, or shoe blacks, or selling matches, flowers, and other cheap goods. Some children undertook work as apprentices to respectable trades, such as building, or as domestic servants (there were over 120,000 domestic servants in London in the mid 18th century). Working hours were long: builders might work 64 hours a week in summer and 52 in winter, while domestic servants worked 80 hour weeks. Many young people worked as prostitutes.

2. Shaw's biography and his place in the development of the English literature

George Bernard Shaw (26 July 1856 - 2 November 1950) was an Irish playwright and a co-founder of the London School of Economics. Although his first profitable writing was music and literary criticism, in which capacity he wrote many highly articulate pieces of journalism, his main talent was for drama, and he wrote more than 60 plays. Nearly all his writings deal sternly with prevailing social problems, but have a vein of comedy to make their stark themes more palatable. Shaw examined education, marriage, religion, government, health care, and class privilege.

He was most angered by what he perceived as the exploitation of the working class, and most of his writings censure that abuse. An ardent socialist, Shaw wrote many brochures and speeches for the Fabian Society. He became an accomplished orator in the furtherance of its causes, which included gaining equal rights for men and women, alleviating abuses of the working class, rescinding private ownership of productive land, and promoting healthy lifestyles.

George Bernard Shaw ranks next to Shakespeare among English playwrights, and yet he did not begin to write drama until he was middle-aged. He made up for lost time with an amazing output of more than 60 plays during a creative life that spanned the Victorian and modern eras. A brilliant and opinionated man, Shaw was essentially self-educated, and he did a splendid job of teaching himself what he needed to know. Above all else, he was always vigorously engaged with the world around him; his long, productive life bristled with vitality, intelligence, and a consuming passion for ideas.

2.1 Early life and family

George Bernard Shaw was born in Synge Street, Dublin in 1856 to George Carr Shaw (1814-85), an unsuccessful grain merchant and sometime civil servant, and Lucinda Elizabeth Shaw, nйe Gurly (1830-1913), a professional singer. Shaw briefly attended the Wesleyan Connexional School, a grammar school operated by the Methodist New Connexion, before moving to a private school near Dalkey and then transferring to Dublin's Central Model School. He ended his formal education at the Dublin English Scientific and Commercial Day School. He harboured a lifelong animosity toward schools and teachers, saying: “Schools and schoolmasters, as we have them today, are not popular as places of education and teachers, but rather prisons and turnkeys in which children are kept to prevent them disturbing and chaperoning their parents”. In the astringent prologue to Cashel Byron's Profession young Byron's educational experience is a fictionalized description of Shaw's own schooldays. Later, he painstakingly detailed the reasons for his aversion to formal education in his Treatise on Parents and Children. In brief, he considered the standardized curricula useless, deadening to the spirit and stifling to the intellect. He particularly deplored the use of corporal punishment, which was prevalent in his time.

When his mother left home and followed her voice teacher, George Vandeleur Lee, to London, Shaw was almost sixteen years old. His sisters accompanied their mother but Shaw remained in Dublin with his father, first as a reluctant pupil, then as a clerk in an estate office. He worked efficiently, albeit discontentedly, for several years. In 1876, Shaw joined his mother's London household. She, Vandeleur Lee, and his sister Lucy, provided him with a pound a week while he frequented public libraries and the British Museum reading room where he studied earnestly and began writing novels. He earned his allowance by ghostwriting Vandeleur Lee's music column, which appeared in the London Hornet. His novels were rejected, however, so his literary earnings remained negligible until 1885, when he became self-supporting as a critic of the arts.

2.2 Personal life and political activism

Influenced by his reading, he became a dedicated Socialist and a charter member of the Fabian Society, a middle class organization established in 1884 to promote the gradual spread of socialism by peaceful means. In the course of his political activities he met Charlotte Payne-Townshend, an Irish heiress and fellow Fabian; they married in 1898. In 1906 the Shaws moved into a house, now called Shaw's Corner, in Ayot St. Lawrence, a small village in Hertfordshire, England; it was to be their home for the remainder of their lives, although they also maintained a residence at 29 Fitzroy Square in London.

Shaw's plays were first performed in the 1890s. By the end of the decade he was an established playwright. He wrote sixty-three plays and his output as novelist, critic, pamphleteer, essayist and private correspondent was prodigious. He is known to have written more than 250,000 letters. Along with Fabian Society members Sidney and Beatrice Webb and Graham Wallas, Shaw founded the London School of Economics and Political Science in 1895 with funding provided by private philanthropy, including a bequest of Ј20,000 from Henry Hunt Hutchinson to the Fabian Society. One of the libraries at the LSE is named in Shaw's honor; it contains collections of his papers and photographs.

During his later years, Shaw enjoyed attending to the grounds at Shaw's Corner. He died at the age of 94, of renal failure precipitated by injuries incurred by falling while pruning a tree. His ashes, mixed with those of his wife, Charlotte Payne-Townshend, were scattered along footpaths and around the statue of Saint Joan in their garden.

2.3 Literary activity and criticism

Shaw became a critic of the arts when, sponsored by William Archer, he joined the reviewing staff of the Pall Mall Gazette in 1885. There he wrote under the pseudonym "Corno di Bassetto" ("basset horn")--chosen because it sounded European and nobody knew what a corno di bassetto was. In a miscellany of other periodicals, including Dramatic Review (1885-86), Our Corner (1885-86), and the Pall Mall Gazette (1885-88) his byline was "GBS". From 1895 to 1898, Shaw was the drama critic for Frank Harris' Saturday Review, in which position he campaigned brilliantly to displace the artificialities and hypocrisies of the Victorian stage with a theatre of actuality and thought. His earnings as a critic made him self-supporting as an author and his articles for the Saturday Review made his name well-known.

Much of Shaw's music criticism, ranging from short comments to the book-length essay The Perfect Wagnerite, extols the work of the German composer Richard Wagner. Wagner worked 25 years composing Der Ring des Nibelungen, a massive four-part musical dramatization drawn from the Teutonic mythology of gods, giants, dwarves and Rhine maidens; Shaw considered it a work of genius and reviewed it in detail. Beyond the music, he saw it as an allegory of social evolution where workers, driven by "the invisible whip of hunger", seek freedom from their wealthy masters. Wagner did have socialistic sympathies, as Shaw carefully points out, but made no such claim about his opus. Conversely, Shaw disparaged Brahms, deriding A German Requiem by saying "it could only have come from the establishment of a first-class undertaker". Although he found Brahms lacking in intellect, he praised his musicality, saying "...nobody can listen to Brahms' natural utterance of the richest absolute music, especially in his chamber compositions, without rejoicing in his natural gift". In the 1920s, he recanted, calling his earlier animosity towards Brahms "my only mistake". Shaw's writings about music gained great popularity because they were understandable to the average well-read audience member of the day, thus contrasting starkly with the dourly pretentious pedantry of most critiques in that era. All of his music critiques have been collected in Shaw's Music. As a drama critic for the Saturday Review, a post he held from 1895 to 1898, Shaw championed Henrik Ibsen whose realistic plays scandalized the Victorian public. His influential Quintessence of Ibsenism was written in 1891.

Shaw wrote five unsuccessful novels at the start of his career between 1879 and 1883. Eventually all were published.

The first to be printed was Cashel Byron's Profession (1886), which was written in 1882. Its eponymous character, Cashel, a rebellious schoolboy with an unsympathetic mother, runs away to Australia where he becomes a famed prizefighter. He returns to England for a boxing match, and falls in love with erudite and wealthy Lydia Carew. Lydia, drawn by sheer animal magnetism, eventually consents to marry despite the disparity of their social positions. This breach of propriety is nullified by the unpresaged discovery that Cashel is of noble lineage and heir to a fortune comparable to Lydia's. With those barriers to happiness removed, the couple settles down to prosaic family life with Lydia dominant; Cashel attains a seat in Parliament. In this novel Shaw first expresses his conviction that productive land and all other natural resources should belong to everyone in common, rather than being owned and exploited privately. The book was written in the year when Shaw first heard the lectures of Henry George who advocated such reforms.

Written in 1883, An Unsocial Socialist was published in 1887. The tale begins with a hilarious description of student antics at a girl's school then changes focus to a seemingly uncouth laborer who, it soon develops, is really a wealthy gentleman in hiding from his overly affectionate wife. He needs the freedom gained by matrimonial truancy to promote the socialistic cause, to which he is an active convert. Once the subject of socialism emerges, it dominates the story, allowing only space enough in the final chapters to excoriate the idle upper class and allow the erstwhile schoolgirls, in their earliest maturity, to marry suitably.

Love Among the Artists was published in the United States in 1900 and in England in 1914, but it was written in 1881. In the ambiance of chit-chat and frivolity among members of Victorian polite society a youthful Shaw describes his views on the arts, romantic love and the practicalities of matrimony. Dilettantes, he thinks, can love and settle down to marriage, but artists with real genius are too consumed by their work to fit that pattern. The dominant figure in the novel is Owen Jack, a musical genius, somewhat mad and quite bereft of social graces. From an abysmal beginning he rises to great fame and is lionized by socialites despite his unremitting crudity.

The Irrational Knot was written in 1880 and published in 1905. Within a framework of leisure class preoccupations and frivolities Shaw disdains hereditary status and proclaims the nobility of workers. Marriage, as the knot in question, is exemplified by the union of Marian Lind, a lady of the upper class, to Edward Conolly, always a workman but now a magnate, thanks to his invention of an electric motor that makes steam engines obsolete. The marriage soon deteriorates, primarily because Marian fails to rise above the preconceptions and limitations of her social class and is, therefore, unable to share her husband's interests. Eventually she runs away with a man who is her social peer, but he proves himself a scoundrel and abandons her in desperate circumstances. Her husband rescues her and offers to take her back, but she pridefully refuses, convinced she is unworthy and certain that she faces life as a pariah to her family and friends. The preface, written when Shaw was 49, expresses gratitude to his parents for their support during the lean years while he learned to write and includes details of his early life in London.

Shaw's first novel, Immaturity, was written in 1879 but was the last one to be printed in 1931. It relates tepid romances, minor misfortunes and subdued successes in the developing career of Robert Smith, an energetic young Londoner and outspoken agnostic. Condemnation of alcoholic behavior is the prime message in the book, and derives from Shaw's familial memories. This is made clear in the book's preface, which was written by the mature Shaw at the time of its belated publication. The preface is a valuable resource because it provides autobiographical details not otherwise available.

After writing his influential essay “Quintessence of Ibsenism”, Shaw began to try his own hand at writing plays. The result, Widowers' Houses (1892), proved to be the first of many plays to come in the years ahead.

Shaw's plays, like those of Oscar Wilde, were fraught with incisive humor, which was exceptional among playwrights of the Victorian era; both authors are remembered for their comedy. However, Shaw's wittiness should not obscure his important role in revolutionizing British drama. In the Victorian Era, the London stage had been regarded as a place for frothy, sentimental entertainment. Shaw made it a forum for considering moral, political and economic issues, possibly his most lasting and important contribution to dramatic art.

As Shaw's experience and popularity increased, his plays and prefaces became more voluble about reforms he advocated, without diminishing their success as entertainments. Such works, including Caesar and Cleopatra (1898), Man and Superman (1903), Major Barbara (1905) and The Doctor's Dilemma (1906), display Shaw's matured views, for he was approaching 50 when he wrote them. From 1904 to 1907, several of his plays had their London premieres in notable productions at the Court Theatre, managed by Harley Granville-Barker and J. E. Vedrenne. The first of his new plays to be performed at the Court Theatre, John Bull's Other Island (1904), while not especially popular today, made his reputation in London when King Edward VII laughed so hard during a command performance that he broke his chair.

For the most part, Shaw's plays are comedies of ideas, works that present complex and often controversial themes within the framework of entertaining plots, appealing and unpredictable characters, and witty dialogue. Shaw's works are insistently rational, coolly ridiculing the conventions and prejudices of his time.

biographical show pygmalion literary

3. Pygmalion - one of the best works of George Bernard Shaw

3.1 Plot of the play

Act One

Portico of Saint Paul's Church (not Wren's Cathedral but Inigo Jones Church in Covent Garden vegetable market) - 11.15p.m. A group of people are sheltering from the rain. Amongst them are the Eynsford-Hills, superficial social climbers eking out a living in "genteel poverty", consisting initially of Mrs. Eynsford-Hill and her daughter Clara. Clara's brother Freddy enters having earlier been dispatched to secure them a cab (which they can ill afford), but being rather timid and faint-hearted he has failed to do so. As he goes off once again to find a cab, he bumps into a flower girl, Eliza. Her flowers drop into the mud of Covent Garden, the flowers she needs to survive in her poverty-stricken world. Shortly they are joined by a gentleman, Colonel Pickering. While Eliza tries to sell flowers to the Colonel, a bystander informs her that a man is writing down everything she says. The man is Henry Higgins, a professor of phonetics. Eliza worries that Higgins is a police officer and will not calm down until Higgins introduces himself. It soon becomes apparent that he and Colonel Pickering have a shared interest in phonetics; indeed, Pickering has come from India to meet Higgins, and Higgins was planning to go to India to meet Pickering. Higgins tells Pickering that he could pass off the flower girl as a duchess merely by teaching her to speak properly. These words of bravado spark an interest in Eliza, who would love to make changes in her life and become more mannerly, even though, to her, it only means working in a flower shop. At the end of the act, Freddy returns after finding a taxi, only to find that his mother and sister have gone and left him with the cab. The streetwise Eliza takes the cab from him, using the money that Higgins tossed to her, leaving him on his own. When she reaches home she does not pay the taxi fare because she thinks that a shilling for two minutes is very much.

Act Two

Higgins' - Next Day. As Higgins demonstrates his phonetics to Pickering, the housekeeper, Mrs. Pearce, tells him that a young girl wants to see him. Eliza has shown up, and she tells Higgins that she will pay for lessons. He shows no interest in her, but she reminds him of his boast the previous day, so she can talk like a lady in a flower shop. Higgins claimed that he could pass her for a duchess. Pickering makes a bet with him on his claim, and says that he will pay for her lessons if Higgins succeeds. She is sent off to have a bath. Mrs. Pearce tells Higgins that he must behave himself in the young girl's presence. He must stop swearing, and improve his table manners. He is at a loss to understand why she should find fault with him. Then Alfred Doolittle, Eliza's father, appears with the sole purpose of getting money out of Higgins. He has no interest in his daughter in a paternal way. He sees himself as member of the undeserving poor, and means to go on being undeserving. He has an eccentric view of life, brought about by a lack of education and an intelligent brain. He is also aggressive, and when Eliza, on her return, sticks her tongue out at him, he goes to hit her, but is prevented by Pickering. The scene ends with Higgins telling Pickering that they really have got a difficult job on their hands.

Act Three

Mrs. Higgins' drawing room. Higgins bursts in and tells his mother he has picked up a "common flower girl" whom he has been teaching. Mrs. Higgins is not very impressed with her son's attempts to win her approval because it is her 'at home' day and she is entertaining visitors. The visitors are the Eynsford-Hills. Higgins is rude to them on their arrival. Eliza enters and soon falls into talking about the weather and her family. Whilst she is now able to speak in beautifully modulated tones, the substance of what she says remains unchanged from the gutter. She confides her suspicions that aunt was killed by relatives, and mentions that gin had been "mother's milk" to this aunt, and that Eliza's own father was always more cheerful after a good amount of gin. Higgins passes off her remarks as "the new small talk", and Freddy is enraptured. When she is leaving, he asks her if she is going to walk across the park, to which she replies, "Walk? Not bloody likely!" (This is the most famous line from the play, and, for many years after the play's debut, use of the word 'bloody' was known, as a Pygmalion; Mrs. Campbell was considered to have risked her career by speaking the line on stage.) After she and the Eynsford-Hills leave, Henry asks for his mother's opinion. She says the girl is not presentable and is very concerned about what will happen to her, but neither Higgins nor Pickering understand her thoughts of Eliza's future, and leave feeling confident and excited about how Eliza will get on. This leaves Mrs. Higgins feeling exasperated, and exclaiming, "Men! Men!! Men!!!"

However, the six months are not yet up, and just in time for the Embassy Ball Eliza learns to behave properly as well as to speak properly. The challenge she faces is increased, however, by the presence at the Ball of Nepommuck, a former pupil of Higgins' who speaks 32 languages and is acting as an interpreter for a "Greek diplomatist" who was in fact born the son of a Clerkenwell watchmaker and "speaks English so villainously that he dare not utter a word of it lest he betray his origin." Nepommuck charges him handsomely for helping keep up the pretence. Pickering worries that Nepommuck will see through Eliza's disguise; nonetheless, Eliza is presented to the Ball's hosts, who, impressed by this vision of whom they know nothing, despatch Nepommuck to find out about her. Meanwhile Higgins, the interesting work done, rapidly loses interest in proceedings as he sees that no-one will see through Eliza. Indeed, Nepommuck returns to his hosts to report that he has detected that Eliza is not English, as she speaks it too perfectly ("only those who have been taught to speak it speak it well"), and that she is, in fact, Hungarian, and of Royal blood. When asked, Higgins responds with the truth - and no-one believes him.

Act Four

Higgins' home - The time is midnight, and Higgins, Pickering, and Eliza have returned from the ball. A tired Eliza sits unnoticed, brooding and silent, while Pickering congratulates Higgins on winning the bet. Higgins scoffs and declares the evening a "silly tomfoolery", thanking God it's over and saying that he had been sick of the whole thing for the last two months. Still barely acknowledging Eliza beyond asking her to leave a note for Mrs. Pearce regarding coffee, the two retire to bed. Higgins returns to the room, looking for his slippers, and Eliza throws them at him. Higgins is taken aback, and is at first completely unable to understand Eliza's preoccupation, which aside from being ignored after her triumph is the question of what she is to do now. When Higgins does understand he makes light of it, saying she could get married, but Eliza interprets this as selling herself like a prostitute. "We were above that at the corner of Tottenham Court Road." Finally she returns her jewelry to Higgins, including the ring he had given her, which he throws into the fireplace with a violence that scares Eliza. Furious with himself for losing his temper, he damns Mrs. Pearce, the coffee and then Eliza, and finally himself, for "lavishing" his knowledge and his "regard and intimacy" on a "heartless guttersnipe", and retires in great dudgeon.

Act Five

Mrs. Higgins' drawing room, the next morning. Higgins and Pickering, perturbed by the discovery that Eliza has walked out on them, call on Mrs. Higgins to phone the police. Higgins is particularly distracted, since Eliza had assumed the responsibility of maintaining his diary and keeping track of his possessions, which causes Mrs. Higgins to decry their calling the police as though Eliza were "a lost umbrella". Doolittle is announced; he emerges dressed in splendid wedding attire and is furious with Higgins, who after their previous encounter had been so taken with Doolittle's unorthodox ethics that he had recommended him as the "most original moralist in England" to a rich American founding Moral Reform Societies; the American had subsequently left Doolittle a pension worth three thousand pounds a year, as a consequence of which Doolittle feels intimidated into joining the middle class and marrying his missus. Mrs. Higgins observes that this at least settles the problem of who shall provide for Eliza, to which Higgins objects -- after all, he paid Doolittle five pounds for her. Mrs. Higgins informs her son that Eliza is upstairs, and explains the circumstances of her arrival, alluding to how marginalized and overlooked Eliza felt the previous night. Higgins is unable to appreciate this, and sulks when told that he must behave if Eliza is to join them. Doolittle is asked to wait outside.

Eliza enters, at ease and self-possessed. Higgins blusters but Eliza isn't shaken and speaks exclusively to Pickering. Throwing Higgins' previous insults back at him ("Oh, I'm only a squashed cabbage leaf"), Eliza remarks that it was only by Pickering's example that she learned to be a lady, which renders Higgins speechless. Eliza goes on to say that she has completely left behind the flower girl she was, and that she couldn't utter any of her old sounds if she tried -- at which point Doolittle emerges from the balcony, causing Eliza to relapse totally into her gutter speech. Higgins is jubilant, jumping up and crowing over her. Doolittle explains his predicament and asks if Eliza will come to his wedding. Pickering and Mrs. Higgins also agree to go, and leave with Doolittle with Eliza to follow.

The scene ends with another confrontation between Higgins and Eliza. Higgins asks if Eliza is satisfied with the revenge she has wrought thus far and if she will now come back, but she refuses. Higgins defends himself from Eliza's earlier accusation by arguing that he treats everyone the same, so she shouldn't feel singled out. Eliza replies that she just wants a little kindness, and that since he will never stoop to show her this, she will not come back, but will marry Freddy. Higgins scolds her for such low ambitions: he has made her "a consort for a king." When she threatens to teach phonetics and offer herself as an assistant to Nepommuck, Higgins again loses his temper and promises to wring her neck if she does so. Eliza realizes that this last threat strikes Higgins at the very core and that it gives her power over him; Higgins, for his part, is delighted to see a spark of fight in Eliza rather than her erstwhile fretting and worrying. He remarks "I like you like this", and calls her a "pillar of strength". Mrs. Higgins returns and she and Eliza depart for the wedding. As they leave Higgins incorrigibly gives Eliza a number of errands to run, as though their recent conversation had not taken place. Eliza disdainfully explains why they are unnecessary, and wonders what Higgins is going do without her. Higgins laughs to himself at the idea of Eliza marrying Freddy as the play ends.


Pygmalion was the most broadly appealing of all Shaw's plays. But popular audiences, looking for pleasant entertainment with big stars in a West End venue, wanted a "happy ending" for the characters they liked so well, as did some critics. During the 1914 run, to Shaw's exasperation but not to his surprise, Tree sought to sweeten Shaw's ending to please himself and his record houses. Shaw returned for the 100th performance and watched Higgins, standing at the window, toss a bouquet down to Eliza. "My ending makes money, you ought to be grateful," protested Tree. "Your ending is damnable; you ought to be shot." Shaw remained sufficiently irritated to add a postscript essay, "'What Happened Afterwards," to the 1916 print edition for inclusion with subsequent editions, in which he explained precisely why it was impossible for the story to end with Higgins and Eliza getting married.

He continued to protect the play's and Eliza's integrity by protecting the last scene. For at least some performances during the 1920 revival, Shaw adjusted the ending in a way that underscored the Shavian message.

When Eliza emancipates herself -- when Galatea comes to life -- she must not relapse. She must retain her pride and triumph to the end. When Higgins takes your arm on 'consort battleship' you must instantly throw him off with implacable pride; and this is the note until the final 'Buy them yourself.' He will go out on the balcony to watch your departure; come back triumphantly into the room; exclaim 'Galatea!' (meaning that the statue has come to life at last); and -- curtain. This ending is not included in any print version of the play.

Shaw fought uphill against such a reversal of fortune for Eliza all the way to 1938. He sent the film's harried producer, Gabriel Pascal, a concluding sequence which he felt offered a fair compromise: a romantically-set farewell scene between Higgins and Eliza, then Freddy and Eliza happy in their greengrocery/flower shop. Only at the sneak preview did he learn that Pascal had shot the "I washed my face and hands" conclusion, to reassure audiences that Shaw's Galatea wouldn't really come to life, after all.

3.2 Origin of the play's title

Shaw wrote Pygmalion in 1912, but he took its name from something way, way older: an Ancient Greek myth. The most famous of its many versions can be found in the Roman poet Ovid's Metamorphoses.

In the myth, Pygmalion, a sculptor from Cyprus, hates women, and especially hates the idea of getting married. With wondrous art, he creates a beautiful statue more perfect than any living woman. The more he looks upon her, the more deeply he falls in love with her, until he wishes that she were more than a statue. This statue is Galatea. Lovesick, Pygmalion goes to the temple of the goddess Venus and prays that she give him a lover like his statue; Venus is touched by his love and brings Galatea to life. When Pygmalion returns from Venus' temple and kisses his statue, he is delighted to find that she is warm and soft to the touch. Pygmalion marries the ivory sculpture changed to a woman under Venus' blessing. They had a son, Paphos, which he took from his home.

Myths such as this are fine enough when studied through the lens of centuries and the buffer of translations and editions, but what happens when one tries to translate such an allegory into Victorian England? That is just what George Bernard Shaw does in his version of the Pygmalion myth. In doing so, he exposes the inadequacy of myth and of romance in several ways. For one, he deliberately twists the myth so that the play does not conclude as euphorically or conveniently, hanging instead in unconventional ambiguity. Next, he mires the story in the sordid and mundane whenever he gets a chance. Wherever he can, the characters are seen to be belabored by the trivial details of life like napkins and neckties, and of how one is going to find a taxi on a rainy night. These noisome details keep the story grounded and decidedly less romantic. Finally, and most significantly, Shaw challenges the possibly insidious assumptions that come with the Pygmalion myth, forcing us to ask the following: Is the male artist the absolute and perfect being who has the power to create woman in the image of his desires? Is the woman necessarily the inferior subject who sees her lover as her sky? Can there only ever be sexual/romantic relations between a man and a woman? Does beauty reflect virtue? Does the artist love his creation, or merely the art that brought that creation into being?

Famous for writing "talky" plays in which barely anything other than witty repartee takes center stage (plays that the most prominent critics of his day called non-plays), Shaw finds in Pygmalion a way to turn the talk into action, by hinging the fairy tale outcome of the flower girl on precisely how she talks. In this way, he draws our attention to his own art, and to his ability to create, through the medium of speech, not only Pygmalion's Galatea, but Pygmalion himself. More powerful than Pygmalion, on top of building up his creations, Shaw can take them down as well by showing their faults and foibles. In this way, it is the playwright alone, and not some divine will, who breathes life into his characters. While Ovid's Pygmalion may be said to have idolized his Galatea, Shaw's relentless and humorous honesty humanizes these archetypes, and in the process brings drama and art itself to a more contemporarily relevant and human level.

3.3 Literary analysis of the play Pygmalion

George Bernard Shaw was a Fabian Socialist who editorialized and lectured on the need for uprooting obsolete notions of a rigid English class-structure in order for individuals to realize their full potential. He wrote the play Pygmalion in 1912 and 1913 as part-social protest, part-satire, part-comic farce. Of all of Shaw's plays, Pygmalion is without the doubt the most beloved and popularly received, if not the most significant in literary terms. Several film versions have been made of the play, and it has even been adapted into a musical. In fact, writing the screenplay for the film version of 1938 helped Shaw to become the first and only man ever to win the much coveted Double: the Nobel Prize for literature and an Academy Award. Shaw wrote the part of Eliza in Pygmalion for the famous actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell, with whom Shaw was having a prominent affair at the time that had set all of London abuzz. The aborted romance between Professor Higgins and Eliza Doolittle reflects Shaw's own love life, which was always peppered with enamored and beautiful women, with whom he flirted outrageously but with whom he almost never had any further relations.

The characters of Pygmalion are unique and fascinating including the common favorite, Eliza Doolittle. Her background and mannerisms not only provide comedy, but a major aspect of the overall conflict. She is the primary protagonist that arrests the audience's attention and sympathy. Her character is portrayed as diligent, hard-working, and inherently intelligent. She is a young woman thrust out into the working world by her equally unwealthy father. Although Eliza's appearance and actions are quite rough at the beginning she does improve and allow her own natural beauty to shine through. This is evidenced when her father says after Higgins has taken her in, “I never thought she would clean up as good looking as that (Act II). Apparently, Eliza impressed the other characters with her transformations.

Eliza's spirit is as much a part of her as her outward appearance. Instead of cowering under Higgins biting comments and fiery temper she matches his with one equally as caustic. Her intelligence also helps her survive in the world, both the aristocracy and the slums. She shows a true perseverance and loyalty to both her lessons and her teacher. Eliza most likely gains most of her emotional appeal by her unfailing innocence and thirst for knowledge.

The other remarkable character presented in the drama is the infamous Henry Higgins. This character is the direct protagonist of Eliza and yet the observer oftentimes can identify with him as well. He is brilliant in the study of phonetics, but awkward and rude in the area of social graces. Even his own mother comments undesirably when she says “You offend all my friends: they stop coming whenever they meet you.” (Act III) His eccentricities and brusque attitude are almost presented as comical. He is very unconcerned about other's feelings and desires but that does not necessarily mean he is centered on himself. Rather he feels he is serving the human race at large and that anyone in the way of that is not worth his time.

The conflict of Pygmalion is basically the undertaking of teaching Eliza to rise in society. The motives held by each of the characters differ but the desired outcome is the same. This conflict is probably the most obvious humor in the play for two reasons. One, the audience can relate to the use of slang and improper English in their own speech causing Eliza's mistakes to be funny. Secondly, is the use Eliza makes of her new found knowledge at Mrs. Higgins house. While there, Eliza is trained to stick to two topics, that of health and the weather. Although Eliza has mastered perfect enunciation by this point her subject matter and word choice isn't exactly refined.

Shaw uses the conflict between Eliza and Higgins to express his own thoughts on the diversity of people. He likes to set these characters on two different sides of a spectrum and develop how they relate. Although the play has a resolution, it is not exactly a story book happy ending. Higgins and Eliza continue on their respective paths of complete opposites but not in the same way as before. Whereas previously, the thing separating them was social class, at the end of the drama, the largest gulf is primarily between their goals in life. Higgins' intent is to better the world through himself, and Eliza's purpose is to better herself through the world.

In analyzing the play Pygmalion, one cannot fully evaluate the characters and conflict without understanding the themes. The themes are based on the legend behind the play's title and Shaw's commentary on social status. The title is derived from an ancient Greek legend which has many parallels with Shaw's play. Professor Higgins is an expert in his field, just as the sculptor Pygmalion was in his. Higgins also holds the same view of women demonstrating this when he says “ I find that the moment I let a woman make friends with me, she becomes jealous, exacting, suspicious, and a nuisance.” (Act II) The final analogy is that both men turned uncarved stone into something beautiful using their talents. Unfortunately, Shaw does not allow the happy ending of the legend to occur in his play as sentimental people would hope. Rather after Higgins has molded her into his special creation, she develops her own defiant self that is totally independent from her creator. This illustrates Shaw's dislike of overdone romantic plays with unrealistic endings.

Another effective literary technique Shaw uses is by writing colloquially, whereby he encapsulates the cockney accent in his writing. This is a common technique used in literature to create a vivid setting and atmosphere and helps to draw the reader into the writing. In this case, the colloquial technique not only serves these purposes but also highlights the stark difference between Eliza's cockney accent and the 'upper class' accent that she eventually develops.

Overall Shaw uses simple literary techniques in Pygmalion to create atmosphere, reflect the setting and captivate his audience. These are his tools but there is much more than literary techniques at work in Pygmalion which makes it one of the classic literary works in history.

The other prominent theme is that of social class and its affect on the novel. Examples of this are presented in the poverty stricken characters of Eliza Doolittle, Mr. Doolittle, and the Eynsford Hills. They all have their own reaction to the circumstances of life. Eliza fiercely strives to better herself, while her father floats contentedly along in his lower class position. The Eynsford Hills represent the “in name only” upper class that have experienced poverty but still continue their snobbish attitudes. However, Shaw gently pokes fun at this hypocritical faсade and inconspicuously praises the family's son Freddy who refuses to carry on so needlessly when he can be happy without money.

The spiritual philosophy of Mr. Alfred Doolittle is one of the most remarkable yet comic beliefs presented in Shaw's drama. Due to Shaw's emphasis on social class as a prominent theme it seems appropriate that the most profound statements come from the most surprising source. Shaw enjoys weaving his own personal convictions throughout all of his work vicariously and wittily, Pygmalion being no exception. Through Mr. Doolittle, a lower class dustman, the observer can get a real glimpse into the thought behind the play.

According to Mr. Doolittle, arriving shortly after Eliza's appearance on Wimpole Street, he is only a member of the undeserving poor, who is concerned about his daughter. Doolittle maintains that he is looking out for his daughter when in actuality, he is attempting to blackmail Professor Higgins. Naturally, Higgins sees through this ruse and listens as Doolittle continues, quite entertained. Doolittle then insinuates that unless he is compensated, he will make it known that his young unwed daughter is staying with Higgins. The professor is so amused with this tactic and Doolittle's simulated interest in his daughter when it is apparent that his real motive is only money. He offers Doolittle more than the five pounds that he has requested. Eliza's father, however, refuses this because as he states, it will give him the responsibility of “middle class morality.” (Act II) In answer to Higgins question “Have you no morals, man?” Doolittle replies “Can't afford them. Neither could you if you were as poor as me” (Act II). Evidently, Doolittle feels that if he has only a small sum of money he is not required to be responsible for its investment, therefore making it possible for him to squander it on alcohol. Because he is not treated as the “deserving poor” who receive charity, he believes that he has no obligation to be wise with the small amount of money he does have. While some drunks or slothful impoverished people become bitter over this, Doolittle actually prefers this lifestyle as an excuse to be irresponsible and lazy.

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