What are the common points between Pygmalion written by Bernard Shaw and Pygmalion the Greek myth? Why did Bernard Shaw choose Pygmalion as the title for his drama? What are the common points between the two Pygmalions?

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In the Greek myth that Shaw uses as the basis of his play, Pygmalion takes a block of marble and sculpts it into a beautiful statue of a woman. He falls in love with his work of art and prays that the statue be brought to life so that he...

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In the Greek myth that Shaw uses as the basis of his play, Pygmalion takes a block of marble and sculpts it into a beautiful statue of a woman. He falls in love with his work of art and prays that the statue be brought to life so that he can marry it. His prayer is granted.

Likewise, Henry Higgins takes an unformed block of matter (as he sees her) in the form of Eliza Doolittle, an uneducated Cockney, and transforms her through elocution lessons, new clothes, cleanliness, and lessons in manners and deportment into a lady. By the time he is through with her, she is, like Pygmalion's statue, transformed. She even convinces dukes and duchesses that she is well born.

Shaw used "Pygmalion" as his title because he understood that his middle- and upper-class audience would know the original story from Ovid. He knew, too, that to his audience it would seem as miraculous to transform a working-class London woman into a lady as it would to transform marble into flesh.

However, Pygmalion's point is to show that the differences between a lady and working-class girl are all superficial. While many people in Shaw's upper-class world thought the upper classes were born superior, Shaw shows it is nurture, not nature, that sets the classes apart. It takes not a miracle but just some clean clothes and education to transform a poor woman into a lady.

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In Ovid's Metamorphoses, the famous Greek legend, king Pygmalion, who was also a sculptor, carved a statue of his ideal woman and named it Galatea. The statue he created was so beautiful and perfect that he fell in love with it immediately. He prayed to Aphrodite (the Goddess of love), to bring the statue to life. Aphrodite granted his wish and then Pygmalion married Galatea.

In the Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw’s famous play Pygmalion (that hits a satire on British class system), the phonetics expert Henry Higgins takes challenge to make cockney speaking, flower girl Eliza Doolittle speak and behave like the elegant, upper class refined British women.

We see, George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion is loosely inspired from this Greek legend in several ways apart from the common title. There is a clear parallel between Greek legend Pygmalion and Professor Higgins (who have a similar outlook for women). Pygmalion never found a woman worthy enough for his love. Higgins notion of women is somewhat similar. His worth for Eliza is as simplistic as an experimental object. We can say just like Pygmalion created a wonderful piece of art (that even got life) from something as wasteful, ugly and lifeless as a stone, Higgins creates an elegant, refined lady from a lower-class, slum girl. In fact, he treats Eliza as his creation also.

Further to it, as an audience we sometimes strongly believe, contrary to Shaw, that Higgins and Eliza should have had met in the end, just like Pygmalion and Galatea get married, though we see this doesn’t happen in the play.

 

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