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Comment on the mingling of genres in Pygmalion.

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anilpandey14 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted January 13, 2009 at 8:29 PM via web

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Comment on the mingling of genres in Pygmalion.

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parkerlee | Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted January 14, 2009 at 2:46 AM (Answer #1)

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"Pygmalion" is most obviously a play since it is written to be performed on stage, and its most popular version is the musical known as "My Fair Lady," also produced as a film. (Most of the songs were added on later!) It is, more concretely, a comedy of manners in that it portrays confrontation between the social classes (and derives most of its humour from this). Perhaps there is something else you are looking for, but these aspects are the most evident.

It is not really a love story per se, in spite of a certain domestic battle of the sexes going on between Eliza and Higgins. Neither is it a fairy tale with the traditional 'happily ever after' denouement. There is no prince, no chateau, and a would-be "princess" (Eliza) with no place to go...

Some critics criticize the fact that the musical and film versions tinker with the ending to make it 'fit' better with these genres and the public's expectation for a Hollywoodian ending.

The title, incidentally, is an allusion to a Greek myth in which a young sculptor chisels a statue of a woman so perfect that he falls in love with it. He pleads favour with Aphrodite (Goddess of Love) to make it come alive, and his wish is granted. This of course corresponds to the transformation of Eliza under Higgins' care, but the analogy pretty much stops there.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 26, 2009 at 10:30 PM (Answer #1)

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It is interesting that Shaw himself called his play a "Romance". Shaw was thus referencing a well-known literary form to which his play does not actually comply. For example, if Pygmalion were a romance his audience would expect there to be a romantic element in the relationship of Liza and Higgins. However, Romance also refers back to a literary form that was separate from more realistic forms through exaggerated and magical narratives. By calling his play a "romance" Shaw is perhaps pointing us towards the amazing transformations in the play (just like the original "Pygmalion" by Ovid) and also the idealised characteristics which the characters try to achieve.

Most would agree however, that this play would fit into "A Comedy of Manners" - a type of comedy that pokes fun at the conventions of society and normally explores the theme of how appearance is more important than moral character. However, as with all of Shaw's plays, it is hard to pigeonhole his work into any one category.

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