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The original Pygmalion myth derives from Ancient Greece. The most famous version is told by the Roman poet Ovid in his Metamorphoses.

In Ovid's story, the sculptor Pygmalion creates a statue of woman that is so beautiful he wishes it would come to life so he could marry it....

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The original Pygmalion myth derives from Ancient Greece. The most famous version is told by the Roman poet Ovid in his Metamorphoses.

In Ovid's story, the sculptor Pygmalion creates a statue of woman that is so beautiful he wishes it would come to life so he could marry it. He prays to Aphrodite, the goddess of love, to give him a living woman as a wife who is just like his beautiful statue. When he arrives back home, he kisses the statue and realizes it has come to life. Aphrodite has answered his prayer, and he is able to marry the statue-turned-woman, which he does. The statue/woman is named Galatea.

If the story seems to reduce a woman to the status of an object—a statue come to life—that would be a valid observation and one Shaw perhaps had in mind when he wrote his play, as Henry Higgins regards Eliza as little more than a "thing" he can experiment with and treat however badly he wishes.

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The myth of Pygmalion is from ancient classical times, the most well-known version being that of the Latin writer Ovid. Pygmalion was a sculptor who fell in love with the beautiful statue of a woman that he carved, and which came to life. The myth has been the subject of several literary adaptations but Shaw's play remains the most famous. In this play the role of Pygmalion is assumed by Professor Henry Higgins. He does not create a statue but he does attempt to create an idealised figure of womanhood in Eliza Doolittle, as he sets out to transfer her from a bedraggled Cockney flower girl into a perfectly-spoken lady. It is questionable whether he entirely succeeds in this, but he does change her life, giving her higher social prospects than she would otherwise have had. There is also a hint that he starts to be attracted to her, as Pygmalion was attracted to his creation, but this romantic element is not developed in the play (however it was added in later film adaptations of Shaw's work). Eliza, unlike the statue in the original myth, is not a static, passive figure; she has a mind of her own from beginning to end.

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