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The Pygmalion play
George Bernard Shaw was an excellent playwright fromIreland, born on the 26th of July, 1856 in Dublin (Wiener47). Throughout his lifetime, Shaw wrote over sixty plays. In 1925,he was awarded a Nobel Prize for his prowess in literature. He movedto London in 1876 regularly writing plays despite the financialstruggles. He was successful in being a theater critic working forthe Saturday Review because it is here thathe began writing his serious work. Besides playwriting, Shaw was apolemicist and critic of many issues that affected the society. Someof the major works he wrote include Pygmalion in 1912, Manand Superman in 1902, and Saint Joan in 1923. With theincorporation of modern satire and allegory, Shaw became influentialin the 1800s extending to the 1900s after his death.
Shaw named Pygmalion after a character from the Greekmythology. In later days, Pygmalion was filmed twice for videoviewing. The first version of the screenplay that Shaw wrote wasexcellent and in the end, it received an Oscar. Pygmalion wasfirst produced in Vienna, Austria in 1913,in Germany language. Afterwardin 1914, performance was done in Englandwhere Mrs. Patrick Campbell acted as Elizabeth Doolittle, and Treeplayed Higgins’ role with a total of 118 scenes. The play mainlyencompasses matters of love and the class system that existed inEngland during the 1800s. The play`s first production in New York wasopened on 23rd March in 1914, at Irvin Place Theatre.George Bernard Shaw displayed an excellentuse of language and symbolism in the play reflecting social problems(Wiener 47).
There are many themes that Shaw presents in the play. Theseinclude family, appearances, and marriage. However, he placed muchattention on the subject “artificiality of classes” during theVictorian period. In explaining the theme,he describes two social classes through various characters and theirtraits the high class and the have-nots.Some characters struggle through many ways to move beyond theircurrent level, and there are those who opt to remain where they are(Shaw 57).
Clara Eynsford-Hill and her mother are struggling withfinancial problems but because they want to fit in the wealthy class,they pretend to be having an expensive and elegant lifestyle. Mrs.Eynsford Hill strives to maintain ahigh-class profile by dressing well and enhancing her behaviors,whereas her daughter Clara attempts to find the latest slang andfashion. Clara`s efforts are tremendous,but Shaw still portrays her as being unable to fit in that category.He says, “PoorClara, who appeared to Higgins and his mother as a disagreeable andridiculous person, and to her mother as in some inexplicable way, asocial failure…” (Shaw,Frederick and Alan 17). Despiteall their efforts, the two ladies still do not make it in adopting awealthy living.Because of the frustrations, they unsuccessfully struggle to gainacceptance in the high social class by trying to be perceived andtreated like the rich. They also strain to climb the high-classladder by getting some wealth from the family because they are of therequired bloodline, but it proves difficult because there is nofortune (Shaw 56). Thisexplanation showsthat during the 1800s, there are individuals who always wanted tolive anartificial life sothat other people could perceive them as being rich even though theywere battling financial problems.
Eliza, on the otherhand, tries to live beyond her social class,but it is for reasons different from those of Clara and her mother.She tells Higgins that she no longer wants to sell at Tottenham CourtRoadcorner.Instead, sheplans to work at a flower shop. To be taken at the store,shehad to obtain features similar to those of the people from a highersocial class. Eliza is aware that she will go nowhere in the societyif she remains in the gutters. It prompts her to take that chance andultimately succeeds. Higgins agrees to teach her on how to behave andtalk well so that she can fit in the high-classsociety. Shaw reveals, through Eliza, that anybody can use dubiousmeans to achieve the high social lifestyle even though they are poor.It,therefore, means thatsocial classes have no significant value. In London, during theambassador`s ball, Eliza attracts the attention of the rich andwealthy by just changing her clothing style, dialect, and manners.She fools Nepomuck into thinking that she is of Hungarian royalextraction despite his self-acclaimed mastery of various dialects(Shaw 76).
Through the ladies, Shawdiscloses that physical appearance was the major basis foridentifying members of a given social class. The fashion, beauty, anddialect that Eliza adopts are the reasons why she isaccepted in theupper-class society. She effortlessly manages to impress the wealthy.Eynsford Hills does not have a good accent that can be acknowledgedby the upper class. At some point, Clara tries to engage in anintelligent conversation but eventually annoys her listeners (Shaw,Frederick and Alan 20).
A drunkard and poorman, Mr. Doolittle has no problem with his social class. He believesthat having no morals is easier and better than having too muchwealth with fake behaviors like pretense and compassion. Mr.Doolittle depicts the rot that exists in the society and othercharacters such as Eliza show how far people can go togain a social class only established by socialadjustments and biases. The society is always subjective. Few peoplejudge others depending on their personal authenticity (Wiener47).
In conclusion, the playpresents real facts that existed in the 1800s and the currentsociety. Shaw`s choice of characters was brilliant and purposeful.Literature is essential in explaining the problems that human beingsface in their day to day living. Many authors, including Shaw, havethe power to change the way society behaves. For instance, Shawpresents to his readers the discriminative social classes that arecreated from anunjustified basis. He shows that the society has a tendency ofdistinguishing people based on their external values instead of moraland internal believes. The primary goal of leading a pure and honestlifestyle is to promote self-worth and social morality. Humanity isprecious and much time should not bewasted on competitionand social vices such as jealousy. It is imperative that everybodystrives to enhance real life for the poor and the physicallychallenged. We should be responsible for every action that weundertake. Social classes should not make humans discriminate oneanother because everybody has a different potential, and many factorscontribute to the way people lead their lives.
Shaw, Bernard, Loewe Frederick, and LernerAlan. PygmalionA Romance In Five Acts. New York:New American Library, 1985. Print.
Shaw, Bernard. Pygmalion.London: Dover Publications, 1994. Print.
Wiener, Gary. ReadingsOn Pygmalion. 2nd ed. San Diego:Greenhaven Press, 2002. Print.