What is the Pygmalion myth?
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.