Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Literature11 Pygmalion: Home

A play by George Bernard Shaw

Found a good resource?

Teacher Librarian

Introduction

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. 

SOURCE: YouTube (2017), Duration 3:41 mins

Pygmalion [Abbey Theatre, 2011]

Pygmalion by Bernard Shaw (Trailer)

'You have no idea how frightfully interesting it is to take a human being and change her into a quite different human being...' - Higgins

For the first time in its history, the Abbey Theatre is delighted to present George Bernard Shaw's most popular play, Pygmalion. With all the parallels of a modern day X-Factor, an impoverished flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, is taken in hand by linguistics professor, Henry Higgins, and turned into a lady. For a bet.

Will she pass for a lady? If so -- what happens then?

Shaw's play is a sharp satire about class, a spirited comment on women's independence and a quick witted comedy.

SOURCE: Youtube (2011),Duration 3:38 mins.

Key Terms

Pygmalion

George Bernard Shaw (1856 - 1950)

Literary Criticism

Vocabulary and Definitions:

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

Resource Key