Why did George Bernard Shaw Write the Play Pygmalion?
In my study of George Bernard Shaw, I found two things of great importance. One is that he was an abandoned child, and the second is that he started off as a critic of plays and musicals at a very early age. He was the son of a singer, a mother who left him and his father to maintain a career as a singer. This can be seen portrayed in all of Shaw’s play. His leading characters are always found to be either living alone, away from parents, or orphans.
As the years passed, Shaw became a noted name in the literary society. This was all thanks to his witty use of words. There are a few people who had the same grasp of words as Shaw did. Another quality which Shaw possessed was a keen observation.
This helped him write about many of the stigmas which were present during his time. Many of the things which he felt strongly about came through vividly in his plays and other works. Many of the issues which Shaw addressed in his plays are still highly relevant to the present society.
Pygmalion the Myth
Pygmalion was a play written by Shaw in 1912. It was later turned into a highly popular film. Due to this film the character of Eliza Doolittle became a huge reality.
Not many people are aware of the origins of the concept of Pygmalion. This word refers to a greek myth. The myth of Pygmalion talks about a sculptor who fell in love with his own creation. He was transfixed with his creation that he prayed to the gods that it would be a real human being. This prayer was answered by the gods.
Pygmalion the play
Keeping the Greek myth in mind, Shaw also wrote a play along similar lines. The story of the play is as follows. A professor is always seen to be emphasizing on the way different people speak.
At one such occasion, he makes a bet regarding a street urchin, Eliza Doolittle. Professor Higgins claims that he can teach the girl to speak like a lady and then pass her off as one at a ball.
This is where it all starts. The character of Professor Higgins is shown to be an eccentric one. Where he lives away from his mother, however, is quite in touch with her. he is also shown to be highly practical, he doesn’t believe in being married or falling in love.
However, things are seen to change after professor Higgins makes the bet with the colonel regarding Eliza Doolittle. She starts to live with the professor as a subject of his experiment. And so starts the journey of the two highly incompatible characters. As the time of the ball of the duchess comes closer, both the professor and the colonel think it wise to try the new and improved Eliza Doolittle on someone. And so they show her to the professor’s mother, who immediately likes Eliza Doolittle.
At the ball of the duchess, she is a great hit. She is asked by the son of the guest of honor to dance with. However, her fairy tale evening ends when she hears the professor and colonel talk about her. To them the project is now over, as they have proved to themselves that they can transform anyone by teaching them how to speak properly. This scares Eliza, as she fears that she will now have nowhere to go after the transformation.
This thought leads to a fight between the professor and Eliza. This is where Eliza realizes she has fallen in love with the professor. However, the professor still is not able to understand his feelings for Eliza. It is only when he fears that she has left his house forever, does he begin to comprehend his true feelings for Eliza. Later his realization is made stronger by the departure of Eliza with another man. However, in the end Eliza returns to the professor. This ending has made the play a highly coveted love story.
How to Interpret Pygmalion?
Different people will look at Pygmalion in a different way. However, as per the different accounts, Shaw intended this play to be about phonetics. He also used his play to target the staunch class system which prevailed at that time.
Shaw was a staunch believer in the proper use of English language. He believed that a person was known by how they spoke. This is what he incorporated into his play. Shaw was a great literary figure of his time. Plays such as Pygmalion are the main reason for his success. He believed in targeting important issues in his play.