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Pygmalion – The Play di George Bernard Shaw
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Pygmalion is a play by George Bernard Shaw, named after a Greek mythological character. It was first presented on stage to the public in 1913.
Professor of phonetics Henry Higgins makes a bet that he can train a bedraggled Cockney flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, to pass for a duchess at an ambassador’s garden party by teaching her to assume a veneer of gentility, the most important element of which, he believes, is impeccable speech. The play is a sharp lampoon of the rigid British class system of the day and a commentary on women’s independence.
In ancient Greek mythology, Pygmalion fell in love with one of his sculptures, which then came to life. The general idea of that myth was a popular subject for Victorian era English playwrights, including one of Shaw’s influences, W. S. Gilbert, who wrote a successful play based on the story called Pygmalion and Galatea first presented in 1871. Shaw would also have been familiar with the burlesque version, Galatea, or Pygmalion Reversed. Shaw’s play has been adapted numerous times, most notably as the musical My Fair Lady and the film of that name.
Shaw mentioned that the character of Professor Henry Higgins was inspired by several British professors of phonetics: Alexander Melville Bell, Alexander J. Ellis, Tito Pagliardini, but above all, the cantankerous Henry Sweet.
Shaw was conscious of the difficulties involved in staging a complete representation of the play. Acknowledging in a “note for technicians” that such a thing would only be possible “on the cinema screen or on stages furnished with exceptionally elaborate machinery”, he marked some scenes as candidates for omission if necessary. Of these, a short scene at the end of Act One in which Eliza goes home, and a scene in Act Two in which Eliza is unwilling to undress for her bath, are not described here. The others are the scene at the Embassy Ball in Act Three and the scene with Eliza and Freddy in Act Four. Neither the Gutenberg edition referenced throughout this page nor the Wikisource text linked below contain these sequences.
‘Portico of Saint Paul’s Church (not Wren’s Cathedral but Inigo Jones Church in Covent Garden vegetable market)’ – 11.15p.m. A group of people are sheltering from the rain. Among them are the Eynsford-Hills, superficial social climbers eking out a living in “genteel poverty”, consisting initially of Mrs. Eynsford-Hill and her daughter Clara. Clara’s brother Freddy enters having earlier been dispatched to secure them a cab (which they can ill-afford), but being rather timid and faint-hearted he has failed to do so. As he goes off once again to find a cab, he bumps into a flower girl, Eliza. Her flowers drop into the mud of Covent Garden, the flowers she needs to survive in her poverty-stricken world. Shortly they are joined by a gentleman, Colonel Pickering. While Eliza tries to sell flowers to the Colonel, a bystander informs her that a man is writing down everything she says. The man is Henry Higgins, a professor of phonetics. Eliza worries that Higgins is a police officer and will not calm down until Higgins introduces himself. It soon becomes apparent that he and Colonel Pickering have a shared interest in phonetics; indeed, Pickering has come from India to meet Higgins, and Higgins was planning to go to India to meet Pickering. Higgins tells Pickering that he could pass off the flower girl as a duchess merely by teaching her to speak properly. These words of bravado spark an interest in Eliza, who would love to make changes in her life and become more mannerly, even though, to her, it only means working in a flower shop. At the end of the act, Freddy returns after finding a taxi, only to find that his mother and sister have gone and left him with the cab. The streetwise Eliza takes the cab from him, using the money that Higgins tossed to her, leaving him on his own.
Higgins’ – Next Day. As Higgins demonstrates his phonetics to Pickering, the housekeeper, Mrs. Pearce, tells him that a young girl wants to see him. Eliza has shown up because she wishes to talk like a lady in a flower shop. She tells Higgins that she will pay for lessons. He shows no interest, but she reminds him of his boast the previous day. Higgins claimed that he could pass her for a duchess. Pickering makes a bet with him on his claim, and says that he will pay for her lessons if Higgins succeeds. She is sent off to have a bath. Mrs. Pearce tells Higgins that he must behave himself in the young girl’s presence. He must stop swearing, and improve his table manners. He is at a loss to understand why she should find fault with him. Alfred Doolittle, Eliza’s father, appears with the sole purpose of getting money out of Higgins. He has no paternal interest in his daughter’s welfare. He sees himself as a member of the undeserving poor, and means to go on being undeserving. With his intelligent mind untamed by education, he has an eccentric view of life. He is also aggressive, and when Eliza, on her return, sticks her tongue out at him, he goes to hit her, but is prevented by Pickering. The scene ends with Higgins telling Pickering that they really have got a difficult job on their hands.
Mrs. Higgins’ drawing room. Higgins bursts in and tells his mother he has picked up a “common flower girl” whom he has been teaching. Mrs. Higgins is not very impressed with her son’s attempts to win her approval because it is her ‘at home’ day and she is entertaining visitors. The visitors are the Eynsford-Hills. Higgins is rude to them on their arrival. Eliza enters and soon falls into talking about the weather and her family. Whilst she is now able to speak in beautifully modulated tones, the substance of what she says remains unchanged from the gutter. She confides her suspicions that her aunt was killed by relatives, and mentions that gin had been “mother’s milk” to this aunt, and that Eliza’s own father was always more cheerful after a goodly amount of gin. Higgins passes off her remarks as “the new small talk”, and Freddy is enraptured. When she is leaving, he asks her if she is going to walk across the park, to which she replies, “Walk? Not bloody likely!” (This is the most famous line from the play, and, for many years after the play’s debut, use of the word ‘bloody’ was known as a pygmalion; Mrs. Campbell was considered to have risked her career by speaking the line on stage) After she and the Eynsford-Hills leave, Henry asks for his mother’s opinion. She says the girl is not presentable and is very concerned about what will happen to her, but neither Higgins nor Pickering understand her thoughts of Eliza’s future, and leave feeling confident and excited about how Eliza will get on. This leaves Mrs. Higgins feeling exasperated, and exclaiming, “Men! Men!! Men!!!”
Higgins’ home – The time is midnight, and Higgins, Pickering, and Eliza have returned from the ball. A tired Eliza sits unnoticed, brooding and silent, while Pickering congratulates Higgins on winning the bet. Higgins scoffs and declares the evening a “silly tomfoolery”, thanking God it’s over and saying that he had been sick of the whole thing for the last two months. Still barely acknowledging Eliza beyond asking her to leave a note for Mrs. Pearce regarding coffee, the two retire to bed. Higgins returns to the room, looking for his slippers, and Eliza throws them at him. Higgins is taken aback, and is at first completely unable to understand Eliza’s preoccupation, which aside from being ignored after her triumph is the question of what she is to do now. When Higgins does understand he makes light of it, saying she could get married, but Eliza interprets this as selling herself like a prostitute. “We were above that at the corner of Tottenham Court Road.” Finally she returns her jewellery to Higgins, including the ring he had given her, which he throws into the fireplace with a violence that scares Eliza. Furious with himself for losing his temper, he damns Mrs. Pearce, the coffee and then Eliza, and finally himself, for “lavishing” his knowledge and his “regard and intimacy” on a “heartless guttersnipe”, and retires in great dudgeon. Eliza roots around in the fireplace and retrieves the ring.
Mrs. Higgins’ drawing room, the next morning. Higgins and Pickering, perturbed by the discovery that Eliza has walked out on them, call on Mrs. Higgins to phone the police. Higgins is particularly distracted, since Eliza had assumed the responsibility of maintaining his diary and keeping track of his possessions, which causes Mrs. Higgins to decry their calling the police as though Eliza were “a lost umbrella”. Doolittle is announced; he emerges dressed in splendid wedding attire and is furious with Higgins, who after their previous encounter had been so taken with Doolittle’s unorthodox ethics that he had recommended him as the “most original moralist in England” to a rich American founding Moral Reform Societies; the American had subsequently left Doolittle a pension worth three thousand pounds a year, as a consequence of which Doolittle feels intimidated into joining the middle class and marrying his missus. Mrs. Higgins observes that this at least settles the problem of who shall provide for Eliza, to which Higgins objects – after all, he paid Doolittle five pounds for her. Mrs. Higgins informs her son that Eliza is upstairs, and explains the circumstances of her arrival, alluding to how marginalised and overlooked Eliza felt the previous night. Higgins is unable to appreciate this, and sulks when told that he must behave if Eliza is to join them. Doolittle is asked to wait outside.
Eliza enters, at ease and self-possessed. Higgins blusters but Eliza isn’t shaken and speaks exclusively to Pickering. Throwing Higgins’ previous insults back at him (“Oh, I’m only a squashed cabbage leaf”), Eliza remarks that it was only by Pickering’s example that she learned to be a lady, which renders Higgins speechless. Eliza goes on to say that she has completely left behind the flower girl she was, and that she couldn’t utter any of her old sounds if she tried – at which point Doolittle emerges from the balcony, causing Eliza to relapse totally into her gutter speech. Higgins is jubilant, jumping up and crowing over her. Doolittle explains his situation and asks if Eliza will come with him to his wedding. Pickering and Mrs. Higgins also agree to go, and leave with Doolittle and Eliza to follow.
The scene ends with another confrontation between Higgins and Eliza. Higgins asks if Eliza is satisfied with the revenge she has brought thus far and if she will now come back, but she refuses. Higgins defends himself from Eliza’s earlier accusation by arguing that he treats everyone the same, so she shouldn’t feel singled out. Eliza replies that she just wants a little kindness, and that since he will never stop to show her this, she will not come back, but will marry Freddy. Higgins scolds her for such low ambitions: he has made her “a consort for a king.” When she threatens to teach phonetics and offer herself as an assistant to Nepomuck, Higgins again loses his temper and promises to wring her neck if she does so. Eliza realises that this last threat strikes Higgins at the very core and that it gives her power over him; Higgins, for his part, is delighted to see a spark of fight in Eliza rather than her erstwhile fretting and worrying. He remarks “I like you like this”, and calls her a “pillar of strength”. Mrs. Higgins returns and she and Eliza depart for the wedding. As they leave, Higgins incorrigibly gives Eliza a number of errands to run, as though their recent conversation had not taken place. Eliza disdainfully explains why they are unnecessary and wonders what Higgins is going to do without her (in another version, Eliza disdainfully tells him to do the errands himself; Mrs. Higgins says that she’ll get the items, but Higgins cheerfully tells her that Eliza will do it after all). Higgins laughs to himself at the idea of Eliza marrying Freddy as the play ends.
The story of Pygmalion is recounted in Ovid’s Metaphorphoses, a series of narrative poems based on the themes of change and transformation using Greco-Roman myth and legend. Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso) was born in on March 20, 43 BC. The work in discussion on this page had been ready for publication around 8 A.D.
The tale of Pygmalion as written by Ovid goes as follows: he was a gifted young sculptor in Cyprus who had a strong misgivings about women due to the numerous vices he thought they were capable of perpetrating. He was determined never to marry, believing that his commitment to his art was enough to sustain his passions. However, one day he began to sculpt a statue of ivory that he decided should be a woman. He was determined to form the image of the perfect woman as conceived by no one until now by him.
The statue grew more impressive each day with the adroit application of his skill. When he finally perfected his beautiful state, Pygmalion realized that he had fallen in love with it. He began to treat the statue as if it were alive–he would kiss it, embrace it, offer gifts to it, dress it, and even lay it down on a couch. All the while, he imagined she responded with the affections of a real woman.
The day of Venus came, which the denizens of Cyprus considered their holiest festival, since Cyprus was the island that first received the goddess after she rose from the sea foam. On this day, worshippers would sacrifice heifers as offerings to the goddess. After Pygmalion made his offering, he prayed to the gods that they might vouchsafe to make the “living likeness” of his ivory statue his bride.
Venus knew what he desired, and she acknowledged his prayer by causing the flame at the altar to flare up three times. Having witnessed this good omen, Pygmalion returned to his house to be with the one he loved. He began to kiss and to caress her ardently. The statue seemed to become soft and warm to his touch, but at first he thought he was deluding himself. However, when he felt a pulse from the body he held in his arms, he knew that Venus had granted his prayer. She responded as a real woman to his embraces. Pygmalion thanked the goddess, and the goddess in turn blessed the occasion of their union. Together they eventually had a daughter whose name was Paphos. In Ovid’s poem, the statue-turned-maiden remains unnamed, but Edith Hamilton accounts differently that Pygmalion named his creation Galatea after she came to life.
Fonte: The Myth of Pygmalion
Pygmalion by G.B. Shaw vs Pygmalion in Ovid’s Metamorphoses
(..) in terms of similarities, both Pygmalion and Prof. Higgins have the same view of women and as a result they vowed not to be married. Both of them are confirmed bachelor. Pygmalion does not want to be married because he despised so many qualities in women that he could not bear the idea of marriage and as for Prof. Higgins, he thinks that ‘women upset everything’. He said “When you le them into your life, you find that woman is driving at one thing and you driving at another”. The second similarity is that both of them are involved with ‘creating something’. Prof. Higgins transforms a cockney speaking flower girl from the gutter to become a well-spoken and poised duchess of the high society. As for Pygmalion, his creation comes in the form of a sculptor of a woman that he sculpted from an ivory and which he called Galatea (means sleeping love). The difference between these two versions of story can be seen in the way both man treats their ‘creations’. Pygmalion admired his work and fell in love with it. He treats the sculpture as if it is a real woman by clothing her, buying her presents, bringing her birds and buying her flowers of all colours. He even prays to Aprodhite to give him a wife that looks like Galatea which he will later found out was granted to him. This is in contrast with Prof. Higgins treatment to his creation, Eliza. He likes to bully her and made heartless insults to her. He also likes to make fun of her never treats her with respect. Another difference that I notice in both stories is that, in the end Pygmalion get married to Galatea and lived happily ever after while Prof. Higgins remained as a bachelor but he started to admire her new character, an independent and defiance woman.
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Fonte: Pygmalion (1938) – Full Movie – Captioned by dcmpnad