Literary analysis of "Pygmalion" by George Bernard Shaw

to a Greek myth, Pygmalion, an ancient sculptor living on Cyprus Island, worshipped the goddess of love, Venus. The local

Literary analysis of Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw



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ival day came. For the festival, Pygmalion made offerings to Venus and made a wish. "I sincerely wish the ivory sculpture will be changed to a real woman." However, he couldnt bring himself to express it. When he returned home, Cupid, sent by Venus, kissed the ivory sculpture on the hand. At that time, it was changed to a beautiful woman. A ring was put on her finger. It was Cupids ring which made love achieved. Venus had granted Pygmalion's wish.married the ivory sculpture changed to a woman under Venus blessing. They had a son, Paphos, which he took from his home.In some versions they also had a daughter, Metharme.'s mention of Paphos suggests that he was drawing on a more circumstantial account than the source for a passing mention of Pygmalion in Pseudo-Apollodorus' Bibliotheke, a Hellenic mythography of the 2nd-century AD. Perhaps he drew on the lost narrative by Philostephanus that was paraphrased by Clement of Alexandria. Pygmalion is the Greek version of the Phoenician royal name Pumayyaton and figures in the founding legend of Paphos in Cyprus.

Parallels in Greek myth


The story of the breath of life in a statue has parallels in the examples of Daedalus, who used quicksilver to install a voice in his statues; of Hephaestus, who created automata for his workshop; of Talos, an artificial man of bronze; and, according to Hesiod, Pandora, who was made from clay at the behest of Zeus.moral anecdote of the "Apega of Nabis", recounted by the historian Polybius, described a supposed mechanical simulacrum of the tyrant's wife, that crushed victims in her embrace.discovery of the Antikythera mechanism suggests that such rumoured animated statues had some grounding in contemporary mechanical technology. The island of Rhodes was particularly known for its displays of mechanical engineering and automata - Pindar, one of the nine lyric poets of ancient Greece, said this of Rhodes in his seventh Olympic Ode:

"The animated figures stand Adorning every public street And seem to breathe in stone, or move their marble feet."trope of a sculpture so lifelike it seemed about to move was a commonplace with writers on works of art in Antiquity that was inherited by writers on art after the Renaissance.


Re-interpretations of Pygmalion

basic Pygmalion story has been widely transmitted and re-presented in the arts through the centuries. At an unknown date, later authors give as the name of the statue that of the sea-nymph Galatea or Galathea. Goethe calls her Elise, based upon the variants in the story of Dido/Elissa.the Middle Ages Pygmalion was held up as an example of the excesses of idolatry, probably spurred by Clement of Alexandria's suggestion that Pygmalion had carved an image of Aphrodite herself. However, by the 18th century it was a highly influential love-story, seen as such in Rousseau's musical play of the story. By the 19th century, the story often becomes one in which the awakened beloved rejects Pygmalion; although she comes alive, she is initially cold and unattainable.twist on this theme can also be seen in the story of Pinocchio where a wooden puppet is transformed into a real boy, though in this case the puppet possesses sentience prior to its transformation; it is the puppet and not the woodcarver (sculptor) who beseeches the miracle.Shakespeare, in the final scene of The Winter's Tale (c 1611), presents what appears to be a tomb effigy of Hermione that is revealed as Hermione herself, bringing the play to a conclusion of reconciliations.Bernard Shaw wrote a play titled "Pygmalion". In Shaw's play, the girl is brought to life by two men in speech - the goal for their masterpiece is for her to marry and become a duchess. It has an interesting spin on the original story and has a subtle hint of feminism.



play by George Bernard Shaw is great for many reasons. It is a social critique that explores the issues of class and love amidst a backdrop of early 20th century England. Shaw's brilliant characterisation of the arrogant and rude but highly intelligent Higgins, and the straight-forward, strong and intelligent Eliza lead the audience to love the characters and be absorbed by the story. Higgins' many insults "squashed cabbage leaf", "draggle-tailed guttersnipe" to Eliza are cruel, but the audience should not overlook his better points, such as his goal of creating a better society through knowledge and elimination of class and all the unfairness associated with the latter. Higgins, reflecting Shaw's own beliefs, believes that, by using phonetics, accents could be eliminated and therefore, with everyone speaking the same, society would become classless. Note this quote "The great secret, Eliza, is not having bad manners or good manners or any other particular sort of manners, but having the same manner for all human souls: in short, behaving as if you were in Heaven, where there are no third-class carriages, and one soul is as good as another." Higgins is sexist, because he lives for his subject, and cannot imagine putting anyone or anything second to his passion. He values companionship, and independence. Eliza, though, wants love - someone who cares for her and respects her. She finds this in Freddy - who is not worthy for her due to his foolish nature and blind adoration, but she accepts him anyway. Eliza has shown that education (and money) can elevate one to another class, but is this a complete transformation? It can be seen that she does not truly belong to either class - she cannot go back to being a flower girl, however she does not feel completely at ease in the middle-class, either. Alfred Doolittle is a good example of the new upwardly mobile middle class, where criterion of gentility was changing from family and background to money. Doolittle provides much comic relief throughout the play. His comments on "middle-class morality" ring true. Pickering is a good foil to Higgins, as a caring and articulate man who treats Eliza well. Shaw's ending is brilliant as it does not adhere to the usual romantic ending, where the reader would expect Eliza and Higgins (the other option to Freddy) to have a romantic relationship. The reason why is explained in the epilogue. The fact is, Higgins was Eliza's teacher and that, as he says himself at the beginning, is a sacred relationship - "You see, she'll be a pupil; and teaching would be impossible unless pupils were sacred." That cements their relationship as unequal. In addition, Higgins' passion would always be phonetics, and learning - all other people and things are second - and this is something that is converse to Eliza's values - the one she marries must love her foremost. Though they become friends, albeit ones that argue constantly, deep down, they respect each other. This line seems to sum up Higgins' thoughts of his finished Galatea -"By George, Eliza, I said Id make a woman of you; and I have. I like you like this." The creation has become independent of its creator and he is glad. In conclusion, Shaw's play "Pygmalion" is a well-written play which is both a drama and social critique.




1.Pygmalion (play) at the Internet Broadway Database

. Pygmalion stories & art: "successive retellings of the Pygmalion story after Ovid's Metamorphoses"

3. Shaw, Bernard, edited by Dan H. Laurence. Collected Letters vol. III: 1911-1925

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