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A play by George Bernard Shaw

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Barbara Stout
Collinson Library
St Stephen's School
Duncraig Campus


Pygmalion is a 1912 play by George Bernard Shaw, named after a Greek mythological character of the same name.

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 that came to life and 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 in 1871, called Pygmalion and Galatea.

This is the Greek myth that is believed to have inspired the name for Shaw's play. Pygmalion was a sculptor who fell in love with a statue he had carved. 

[Published on YouTube 2017, Duration 3:41 mins]



George Bernard Shaw (1856 - 1950)

Literary Criticism


Drama | derived from the Greek word meaning "action"; a performed version of a fiction

Allusion | a figure of speech that references another work of literature, myth, historical event, or person

Pygmalion | a figure from Greek mythology; Pygmalion was a sculptor who fell in love with a statue he had carved

Act | a division of a play

Scene | a division of an act

Dialogue | spoken lines in a play

Aside | a character's words to the audience that is not heard by other characters

Soliloquy | when a character says his/her own thoughts aloud

Prologue | an introduction to a play

Setting | the time and place the action of the play occurs

Comedy | a story in which the hero wins, usually funny

Tragedy | a story in which the hero loses, usually sad

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