Thursday, May 24, 2018

George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion (1983)

Pygmalion, a 1983 American TV production starring Margot Kidder as Eliza Doolittle and Peter O'Toole as Professor Henry Higgins, one of the many adaptations. Pygmalion, the five-act play bGeorge Bernard Shaw, was first performed on stage at the Hofburg Theatre in Vienna on October 16, 1913, in a German translation by Siegfried Trebitsch. It opened in New York City at at the German-language Irving Place Theatre on March 24, 1914; and in London, In English, at His Majesty’s Theatre on April 11, 1914. Since then, there have been dozens of adaptations of this story, one of “making a lady” out of someone born to the lower classes, one of “making a lady” out of a working-class girl by teaching her diction and manners. The 1956 stage musical, My Fair Lady, is one of the most famous adaptations of this play, as is the 1964 film musical with Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn. It is funny in a sad way, a sort of humane comedy. But, it is also much more, as Fintan O’Toole astutely and sensitively writes (“The lie that poverty is a moral failing was buried a century ago. Now it’s back;” October 18, 2017) in The Guardian: “Pygmalion is not just about Eliza’s transformation from flower girl to apparent duchess. It’s about her father’s transformation from a disreputable character to the epitome of propriety. And in this morality tale is one of Bernard Shaw’s most important arguments: people are not poor because they are immoral; they’re immoral because they are poor. Or, to put it in the terms of today’s assumptions about poverty: the problem with the poor isn’t their ‘culture’ or their want of character. It’s just that they don’t have enough money.” Some people who are not poor might get it, but I suspect that they are in the minority. More’s the pity. For more, go [here] and [here] and [here] and [here].

Courtesy: Youtube


  1. This is a clash of the classes. Shaw shows that a woman from the lowest class of society is by nature more able to blend into high society than a man who had all the advantages, but is by nature a crude and vulgar bully. His own mother won't let him in her house if there are guests, but takes Eliza to be a friend and companion. Alfred is another story altogether, and is an overt critique of the hypocrisy of "middle class morality". I count this as my #1 favorite play. I'm glad that it continues to be played.

  2. Thank you for your critique. I too am glad that it is being read and performed.


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