Pygmalion was a play written by George Bernard Shaw in 1913. It deals with topics such as social class, stereotypes and appearance vs. reality. It tells the story of Eliza Doolittle, a lower-class girl who sells flowers, and an upper-class linguist named Henry Higgins.
Pygmalion is a play by George Bernard Shaw. The theme of this piece is social classes and manners. This idea runs throughout the book. Shaw first shows the differences between the classes during the period.
Flowers symbolize Eliza’s transformation. She blossoms into a beautiful young lady, but her personality does not change; she is still the same flower. Higgins is a symbol created by the Greek sculptor Pygmalion. Eliza is a symbol of Galatea, the statue that Pygmalion creates and falls in love with.
Definition of Pygmalion
: a king of Cyprus who fashions an ivory female figure to be brought to life for him by Aphrodite.
Henry Higgins stayed in Eliza Doolittle’s life, but Shaw insisted that they were not romantically compatible, that they remained pure friends who saw each other as sparring partners in wit and cleverness.
At the end of the play, after an enormous struggle of wills, Eliza decides to start her own business. “If I can’t have kindness, I will have independence,” she explains. Then, according to Shaw’s final stage directions, “sweep Eliza out.”
The main theme of “Pygmalion” is that social class is not something to value. Those from a higher social class may not be good people, and those from a lower social class may have many virtues of their own.
In Pygmalion, the climax comes when Eliza passes the exam at a ball for the duke and duchess and exits as a noblewoman.
Historical context of Pygmalion
The play is set in the early 20th century, at the end of the Victorian period. During this time, London was the capital of the vast, powerful British Empire.
Eliza Doolittle feels offended at the end of My Fair Lady because her success is not appreciated. She packs up and leaves the Higgins house. She also tells Higgins that she doesn’t need him anymore.
Furious, she doesn’t know what to do with her and throws Higgins’ slippers at him, confusing him. He proposes that she marry someone. She gives him back the jewelry he has borrowed and he accuses her of ingratitude.
In Shaw’s play Pygmalion, the “spectator” is just someone standing in the street when Eliza and Higgins start talking.