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Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
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Pygmalion (1913)

by George Bernard Shaw

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English (36)  Norwegian (1)  Dutch (1)  French (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (40)
Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
Pygmalion, in my opinion, is Shaw's piece de resistance (if that is how you spell it). It is a masterpiece. While I can simply leave it at that I am compelled to say a lot more about this play, but first, the plot.
Two English gentlemen (and when I read this book I wondered if it was implied that they were homosexual) bet as to whether they can take a street urchin and turn her into a lady by teaching her how to speak proper English. They do and the experiment is successful, and the bet is won. However the problem is that the woman, Eliza, is left in a difficult position as despite the fact that she is now educated, she is still a woman and has all the rights of a woman - which is none. So, while Henry Higgins has proven that he can turn a street urchin into a lady, she is still a woman and is left in the situation that she cannot do anything with the education that she now has.
This play is an attack upon education and upon the status of women in early 20th Century England. They simply had no rights and while they could learn and they could appear to move among the gentry, the fact that they were women relegated them to a second class status. It is said that the system of education was one of the areas that Shaw attacked in his plays, and in this play we see how despite Liza having an education, she knows that she can do nothing with it, and is not recognised as having an education.
This play has spawned a lot of duplicates, one of them being a play by Willy Russell called Educating Rita. I read that book in year 11 when I returned to high school and my English teacher loved it because he believed that it showed us how an education can change us. After reading Pygmalion I believed that that play was left for dead (and still do). However there are differences, namely that the status of women in the mid-twentieth century had changed dramatically. However, the theme is still the same, in that a woman from the working class, through education, was able to lift herself out of the working class.
Another spawn would be an Eddie Murphy movie called Trading Places. Here two incredibly wealthy men make a bet that they could turn a bum into a successful Wall Street Trader, and turn the successful Wall Street Trader into a common criminal. Like Henry Higgins in Pygmalion, they succeed, but further, they have no understanding of the power of education, because after turning the bum into a successful trader, they realise that they cannot simply send him back to the streets. He has become educated, and in becoming educated he has the power to fight back, which he does so successfully.
It is a shame that Shaw has disappeared into relative obscurity. I do not see any of his plays being performed (though being stuck in the little backwater that is Adelaide means that we see very little in the way of good theatre, or more correctly, what I consider good theatre). Still, beggars can't be choosers, but the educated have the world at their doorstep. ( )
  David.Alfred.Sarkies | Apr 4, 2014 |
I found myself very interested in this play. I knew a lot about it before reading it, but that didn't stop me being interested. It was funny, well written and I enjoyed it a lot. ( )
  bookish92 | Mar 20, 2014 |
This is the original story that 'My Fair Lady" was based o. The original is more gritty and less huerous than the movie. Shaw, not at his best, but in his amusing phase. ( )
  siubhank | Sep 25, 2013 |
The third in my crash course of Shaw plays, and I like it better than [b:Arms and the Man|383018|Arms and the Man|George Bernard Shaw|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1327965588s/383018.jpg|628265] but not as well as [b:Candida|418373|Candida|George Bernard Shaw|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1327970073s/418373.jpg|1586414]. It's certainly weightier than Candida in its subject matter, but it paradoxically spends less time on its important questions. The scenes feel so quick and breezy that you're challenged to describe what even happens during them. The characters are memorable but mostly undeveloped; the two most developed are Higgins (insufferable) and Liza (insufficiently developed). Everyone else is just sort of filling space. Overall, this play suffers greatly from its brevity, whereas Candida benefitted by it. ( )
  blake.rosser | Jul 28, 2013 |
I loved this play but I found the ending so very unsatisfying. It is so abrupt and unfinished. It feels like he simply stopped writing in the middle of a thought and just walked away. ( )
  Iudita | Jul 13, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (56 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
George Bernard Shawprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cochran, ShannonAudio Performersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pennell, NicholasAudio Performersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Topolski, FeliksIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
First words
The Daughter: I'm getting chilled to the bone.
Quotations
Women upset everything. When you let them into your life, you find that the woman is driving at one thing and you're driving at another.
It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him.
The English have no respect for their language, and will not teach their children to speak it.
What is life but a series of inspired follies? The difficulty is to find them to do. Never lose a chance: it doesn't come every day.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0486282228, Paperback)

A rousing success on the London and New York stages, a popular film, and a great musical hit ("My Fair Lady"), this brilliantly written play, with its irresistible theme of the emerging butterfly, is one of the most acclaimed comedies in the English language. Includes Shaw's Preface and "Sequel."

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:41:29 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Pygmalion both delighted and scandalized its first audiences in 1914. A brilliantly witty reworking of the classical tale of the sculptor 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. This is the definitive text produced under the editorial supervision of Dan H. Laurence, with an illuminating introduction by Nicholas Grene, discussing the language and politics of the play. Also included in this volume is Shaw's preface, as well as his 'sequel' written for the first publication in 1916, to rebut public demand for a more conventionally romantic ending.… (more)

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