Explain the combination of genres in Pygmalion.

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Shavian play Pygmalion belongs to popular theatrical genre of the time known as the "well-made play." This means that it contained a strong plot complete with a solid main story that it follows directly, without allowing the theatrics to alter the message of independence and social unfairness that the play intends to convey.

However, aside from being a well-made play, it also contains several elements of Romantic literature in that the situations that are shown in the play are realistic, not adorned, and quite relevant in social terms. Here we have a woman whose cockney accent is a problem for her potential future. This shows the real silly social discrimination issues taking place in a growing Victorian England, where snobbery and haughtiness was the daily bread of the new middle classes.

Additionally, the potential romance between the two main characters is not resolved. This is another aspect of the play that makes it mix with Romanticism: The fact that the romance does not come to a full circle. After all, do all romances come to a happy ending in real life? It is this use of realism what gives Pygmalion its unique, Shavian taste.

In contrast to many other plays of his time, we also see a lack of flowery-overused language, and we find roughness and toughness when necessary. Yet, we can also experience the touch of sarcasm that was used by many other dramatists for comedies of manners.

In all, we can conclude that Pygmalion can be both a comedy of social issues as well as a romance where we witness journey into the hearts of Liza and Higgings. It is, in all, a play that shows the social, the emotional, the psychological, and the comedic aspects of human reality.

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